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Saturday Storm Sets Scene For Mystery
Real-life cooks Manuel and Deni Gabriel of Oakdale prepare the tri tip that was served as part of the murder mystery dinner theatre. MARG JACKSON/THE TIMES


The phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Saturday evening arrived with heavy winds, intermittent downpours … and the perfect setting for a murder mystery dinner theatre in a barn along Enterprise Road.

‘Grandpa’s Barn’ – which has served as the setting for many special events hosted by Lorina’s Edible Garden – was instead turned into a stage and dining area for the production.

Escalon High School alum Taylor Carnes and several of her friends and colleagues from the In Motion Theatre Company staged a drama to remember for the ages, the hilarious yet devious mystery playing out as attendees enjoyed dinner, compared notes, were ‘interviewed’ by a couple of investigators working the case and trying to figure out ‘whodunit.”

The premise of the play was that the chef for the evening was poisoned and drops dead amidst the diners. It is then determined the killer must be among those in the barn so no one is allowed to leave while the investigation is conducted. The ‘chef’ did not actually cook the dinner; that was done by Oakdale-based BBQ in a Barrel owner-operators Manuel and Deni Gabriel. But they were happy to let the ‘chef’ introduce the meal and then gasped along with everyone else when he collapsed.

Carnes, who came up with the idea as a fundraiser for her summer musical training and travel, said the show went over well and there were plenty of ‘characters’ in and amongst the audience. A very brief (and unexpected) power outage in the barn also lent some authenticity.

Among the characters/suspects were the Nut King Rodrigo Macadamia and his wife Natasha, Viola the worn out opera singer, while Police Officer Buck Nekkid and private investigator Truck Parts, also known as ‘Private’ Parts came in to help solve the crime.

By the end of the evening, attendees learned the killer was Carnes’ former music teacher, who did it to collect insurance money she had taken out on the chef, whom she had befriended. The music teacher wasn’t an obvious player in the production, said Carnes, she was seated at a table with other diners. All the characters had motive, she added, and took turns pointing out who they thought did it and why. Carnes said she also was a suspect, though she would have been “too obvious” a choice to have been the ‘who’ of the whodunit.

“We couldn’t have put any more people in there,” Carnes noted of the jam-packed ‘Grandpa’s Barn’ that served as the venue for the show. “The weather actually seemed to be playing a role in the show itself and it was just a lot of fun.”