Monday, December 12

Theater Review: Mystery Cafe of Indianapolis: Ho Ho Homicide

Robert Kingery and Melissa Gutierrez    Image/IzzyEvans
Evidence suggests that Murder Mystery dinners gained popularity in the 1980s as a culmination of Hollywood's '40s mystery movies, radio Whodunnits in the '40s and '50s, theaters-in-the-round and dinner theaters which were predominant in the '60s and '70s. As is with most things, what once was old is new again, and this is true with audience-participation performances.

The Mystery Cafe, originating in '88 in Canton MA., is the original, and longest running, mystery theater company in the nation.

Mystery Café of Indianapolis was founded in ’92. The currently running performance, “Ho Ho Homicide” is performed at Milano Inn, 231 S. College St., Indianapolis. Alternate locations are available for various performances.

The play, written by Nita Hardy, is a zany, over the-top spoof of whodunnits. The plot finds southern belle, Miss Charlotte O’Tara, portrayed by Melissa Gutierrez, about to be murdered. When the dirty deed occurs, her relative from Ireland sings they are “Cousins, Identical Cousins” (think The Patty Duke Show's theme song here) Maureen O’Tara, also Gutierrez. Maureen puts on her sleuthing cap and hires Nick Saint, private detective.
Saint, a droll, Humphrey-Bogart caricature, portrayed by Robert Kingery, paces the floor while piecing together clues.

Gutierrez and Kingery whip through several characters each, switching accents, costumes and mannerisms without missing a beat. The duo shines brightest while verbally sparring with each other and both show genuine enjoyment in their roles. While this play is performed well enough to be on stage, the fun is found with the interaction between the characters and the audience.

The meal is served between acts as four courses, giving ample time to jot down clues, discuss possible suspects with other diners (seating is family style) and enjoy the food at a leisurely pace. Dinner consists of soup, salad, entrée choice of four traditional Italian dishes, and dessert of Spumoni ice cream.

Audience participation is cornerstone to the success and enjoyment of the evening (Translation: leave the curmudgeon at home). The more you get into the mood, the more fun it is. I was given the role of the Jamaican psychic "Madam Cleo" and sat near audience characters "Red Butler" and "Blondie Bloomwood" (who was a suspect). Awards are given out to the audience members: one for best actor and one for correctly guessing the murderer. Photo opportunities are available after the show. Ticket price covers the performance, meal (with coffee or tea) and good-natured fun. Adult beverages and gratuity are not included in the price.

Bottom Line: Mystery Cafe's outlandish groaners, over-the-top impersonations and slight innuendos make "Ho Ho Homicide" an absolutely delightful whodunnit and a refreshing alternative for an evening out.

For tickets, schedule and information, visit
For menu, hours and location of restaurant, visit

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC, and follow her on Twitter @GottaGo and Facebook. Gotta Go is published in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

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