By David Dixon
Sleuths who enjoy their mysteries with humor instead of dread should visit the Mystery Café Dinner Theater in Bankers Hill.
For over 25 years, the company has been producing original comedies that encourage audience participation coupled with the ability to go with the flow.
The latest theatrical piece playing at the Imperial House Restaurant is “Nobody’s Got a Clue.” Paying homage to the board game Clue, the play revolves around guests visiting the home of Mr. Nobody. After the wealthy man is killed, all the visitors including Professor Plumber, Mrs. Off White and Colonel Dijon become murder suspects.
Bringing the story to life is co-owner Shawn Greiner. He has worked as an actor for the company since 2001 and runs the café with his wife, Mary.
Greiner is director/writer/co-star of “Nobody’s Got a Clue.” His script was influenced by his love of the “Clue” movie adaptation starring Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn and Christopher Lloyd.
“The film has been my favorite motion picture since I was a kid,” he said. “It made sense for me to write this parody for the theater.”
Fans of the big screen cult classic will be thrilled to know there are references to the slapstick-filled adventure throughout the evening.
“There are a few quotes that die-hard fans will get,” he said. “Parts of the soundtrack are also used in our production.”
Cast members are not afraid to improvise jokes or interact with viewers.
“You never know how audiences are going to respond to the actors,” he said. “We don’t believe in a fourth wall at Mystery Café.”
Be aware that several spectators are asked to participate in Greiner’s tale.
“We ask our audience to arrive 30 minutes early to be seated,” he said. “What they usually don’t know is that when the ensemble talks to them in the preshow, we are seeing who is fun and willing to play.”
Even though Greiner and Mary became owners in 2015, not much has changed in terms of management. Yet, one of the biggest accomplishments recently is they helped increase attendance by over 60 percent. The main reason that more people have been visiting, Greiner noted, is because of positive customer service.
“Our goal is that visitors are happy from the moment they call us to the moment they leave the theatre,” he said.
The other reason why more people are taking a trip to the café is because many are familiar with Clue. “Everybody knows the board game,” he said. “Even if the characters names are a bit different, guests can still completely relate to the plot.”
“Nobody’s Got a Clue” is going to run at least through June, but Greiner wants future shows to have a similar tone.
“My future plans are to continue to produce original plays that have never been seen before,” he said. “Although murder mysteries are going to be included as subplots, our main focus is on the comedy aspect.”
He hopes that San Diegans who have never been to a single mystery dinner event give “Nobody’s Got a Clue” a chance.
Greiner has preserved the appeal of the unique interactive experience. Bring a big appetite and be prepared to get involved in the action.
—A fan of film and theater from a very young age, David Dixon has written reviews and features for various print and online publications. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.