The lethal West
“Meet me at the church at midnight, and we’ll discuss the church newsletter. Just you and me—by candlelight,” said the Reverend Hornus Manhandler (Paul Dancer) in a sly Irish accent. He raised his eyebrows and gave me a subtle wink of the eye. “Don’t tell Brother Raymond, though,” he added. The Reverend’s wife, Sadie (director and Funtime Theater founder Kathy Easly), was too busy talking to other “suspects” to notice her husband’s wandering, winking eyes.
Raymond is my boyfriend. He accompanied me to Funtime’s murder mystery dinner presentation of Dillweed Nevada. When I told Raymond that the Reverend was trying to put the moves on me, he joked that he would straighten him out. I told Ray not to be too worried because I had asked the Reverend what the Seventh Commandment was (a clue encouraged me to do so), and he staunchly said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“That doesn’t mean he believes in it,” Raymond suggested.
As the performers rely almost entirely on interaction with the audience, Ray and I spent a lot of time chatting up the Dillweed townsfolk.
The Reverend had initially introduced himself to us minutes after arriving at BJ’s Bar-B-Q (745 N. McCarran Blvd., Sparks), the scene of the crime and dinner, and an appropriately rustic locale for the 1877 temporal setting of the play. The Reverend was a finger-on-the-pulse-of-everything kind of guy. He tried to get me and Raymond to invest in some newfangled idea called a ballpoint pen and some zany sport called baseball, which, as Deputy McMarshall (Tumbleweed Tex) later pointed out, makes no sense: “When you hit the ball, that should be called a strike.”
It was the audience’s job to uncover as much about the people of Dillweed as possible prior to the two murders that would be taking place. Of course, it was the most despicable characters who ended up being knocked off—you’ll have to wait and see if the Reverend was one of them—and their murderers were two of the people I least suspected.
As the evening progressed, more secrets were revealed. A clue suggested I ask Desolay Wanton (Maire Burgess) what the price of a loaf of bread is in New York. Her response, “For me, three to six months,” advanced into a discussion about who her prison acquaintances were. Apparently, the Reverend spent some time working at Desolay’s coop. “He helped wayward girls find their way,” Desolay said.
One of the perks of the evening was our dining companions. Raymond and I were seated with a couple, Becky and Tony, who moved from San Diego about a year ago. Tony made himself a very active participant in the evening’s festivities. His quips were as entertaining as any of the performers, which is a compliment for both parties.
When Tony told the Reverend he thought he could help him raise some money, the Reverend earned a round of laughs from our table by “breaking time” and saying, “Good, give me your e-mail.”
For original local theater—the performers at Funtime penned the characters and script themselves—Dillweed Nevada was impressively clever and funny. Character names alone were blatantly droll (Desolay’s banker husband was Avaricious, Avery for short) and sexually suggestive. Ray and my favorites were the Please women: town doctor and whorehouse proprietor, Gladys Please (Chris Kilian), and her daughters, who did an awesome job of bringing food and drinks to the packed restaurant, Anyanees and Bloise Please. Anything we asked Bloise for, she took care of.