Seasonal suspense came to the Ram’s Den on Tuesday night courtesy of the Chester Hadlyme Mystery Party and their comedic who-done-it, “Never Trust an Elf”.
The event was presented by the Memorial Union Board and co-sponsored by the Student Entertainment Committee as part of the 2014 Winterfest. The show included a dinner catered by Dining Services.
The troupe is based in New Haven, Connecticut, and led by actor Michael Sayers, who portrays the namesake detective, Chester Hadlyme.
Sayers said that the name came from the sign for exit 6 on Route 9 in Connecticut, which he saw the day that he first received a contract to produce the Murder on the Connecticut River cruise.
“I went ‘that would make a damn good name for a detective’ and I adopted it right there,” he said. “I have been doing my mysteries now for about 30 years, as Chester for about 25.”
The “Never Trust an Elf” mystery centered around a murdered contestant in an “elf of the year” contest. The audience was told to look for clues through their interactions with the actors as they moved from table to table.
“I think that the people who come to this, they already enjoy this type of program,” Student Entertainment Committee faculty advisor Michael Nolfe said. “The actors kind of ham it up a bit, but I think the students really like that, they like that interaction.”
The actors portraying the elves were Paul Lombardo (Nod), Joe Mango (Winken), Nate Gagnon (Blinken) and Mara Dresner, who played the murder victim, Blanche. Â Lombardo has been working with Sayers’ group since it began, and Mango collaborated with Sayers on voiceover work before joining the troupe. The performance in the Ram’s Den was Gagnon’s second with the ensemble.
The troupe has done several murder mysteries at the Memorial Union in the past. According to Sayles, they last performed there about six or seven years ago. He said that he has written about 60 mysteries and the group tries to not bring the same one to a college twice.
“They started off as actually scripted stage shows and they developed into a much more improvisational interactive comedy thing rather than a stage show,” he said.
After the mystery was solved, the troupe randomly selected a winner of the night from the entries that correctly guessed the identity of the killer.
The winner, biological sciences major Haran Mennillo, was awarded a t-shirt and had his picture taken for the group’s Facebook page.
Several of the administrators at the event said that the student attendees enjoyed the program, and it was under consideration to bring the troupe back again some time next year.
“It was enjoyable watching our students relax and have a little fun given the fact that it’s almost to the end of the term,” Memorial Union director Bruce Hamilton said.
Winterfest will conclude with free hot beverages outside of the Union this afternoon and a free screening of “Guardians of the Galaxy” tonight in Swan Auditorium. A sold-out performance by magician Mat Franco will be held tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Edwards Auditorium.