Theater

A Real Whodunnit in Newport

Get in on the action with this interactive murder mystery

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If you find yourself trying to outguess the crime detectives on the popular CSI or Law and Order shows or can’t get enough of the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, why not test your detective prowess with a murder mystery? Get caught up in the action and step back in time to the gilded age for some lively interactive theatre at the Newport Art Museum.

Produced and performed by the Marley Bridges Theater Company, Murder at the Museum is a family-friendly whodunit, staged at the John N.A. Griswold Mansion, located in the heart of Newport’s Old Quarter. Designed in 1862 by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt, the building was completed in 1864. A national historic landmark, it has been home to the Newport Art Museum since 1916 and currently houses restored rooms, galleries, a children’s art classroom, administrative offices, a lecture hall and the Griffon Shop. Upon a recent visitation, it proves to be the perfect setting for a mystery.

Formerly known as the Beechwood Theatre Company, the Marley Bridges Theater Company (MBTC) specializes in interactive, historical and educational theatre programming, which Artistic Director Patrick Grimes calls “edutainment.” They have been collaborating with the museum for 18 months and are committed to C.R.I.M.E. (Creative Role-playing Interactive Mystery Experiences). The company strives to offer Rhode Islanders and visitors to the state exciting and affordable entertainment, in addition to providing educational acting workshops to area schools at little or no cost. Money raised through their program helps to fund art programs in the community.

Working with original scripts that are tailored around the history, art and culture of Newport as well as the house itself, the current production, The Butler Did It, centers on the staff during the period in which Griswold lived in the mansion – the late 1800s. The premise is that Griswold has gone to New York and his staff decided to throw a party while he’s away. As Grimes puts it “when the cat is away, the mice will play.” As guests start dying, the audience must work together to solve the clues and accuse the proper murderer of his crime.

Grimes explained that audience will be considered servants from other Newport homes who have been invited to the party. “The show is 100% interactive,” he says. “It is similar to a giant game of Clue.”

The audience will spend the first 40 minutes meeting and mingling with an array of amusing servant characters. It all begins in the “ballroom,” the Ilgenfritz Gallery of the museum. Some guests may become suspects and will be separated from the rest of the guests and sent where they would have been at the time of the crime; These audience members will see a whole different perspective of the play. Other guests will have the opportunity to question suspects and wander within several of the museum’s galleries, searching for clues. Grimes recommends wearing comfortable walking shoes. Costumes may also be worn – but are completely optional.

Would a guest be a victim? Not likely, but be careful with who you trust because you never know.

In February there are four performances (February 11, 18, 22 and 25), three of which coincide with the Newport Winter Festival, which runs from February 17 through February 25. All performances begin at 5:30pm.

It really is the best of both worlds: browse the museum’s renowed collection of art on display and then have some fun solving this interactive crime.

For more information about the theatre company visit www.marleybridges.org. Check out www.newportmurdermystery.com to learn how you can schedule a get-away mystery weekend at the Architect's Inn, also in Newport. For more information about exhibits and programs at the museum, go to www.newportartmuseum.org.