Apollon “Murder in a Jerkwater Town”

MarieSpecial Events

1873. Your train breaks down while travelling through the Missouri Ozarks. You and your fellow passengers settle down at the local saloon for food and a perhaps an elixir while you wait for repairs. As you finish dinner, you suddenly learn that a particularly disagreeable passenger has been murdered. Fortunately, a Pinkerton detective is traveling with you, and she intends to solve the homicide before the train leaves. Unfortunately, everyone in the saloon, including you, is now a suspect.
Apollon’s newest offering, “Murder in a Jerkwater Town,” is set in the rough and tumble of post-Civil War Missouri. While the war was over, tensions roil between the victors and Confederate sympathizers, between whites and blacks, and even between men and a new generation of more assertive women. Playwright Mary Oliver transports her audience into this world for an evening of interactive sleuthing.
“I did a lot of role playing games in college, and a group I was in decided to create a murder mystery and then do it each year,” recalls Oliver. Once in Omaha she decided to put her skills to work at the Apollon, which specializes in original interactive experiences that typically combine art, music, performance and food. The evening begins with a period meal, including cheese biscuits, overland trout and molasses apple pie. A snake oil salesman will be selling his aqua vita at the bar, guaranteed to cure whatever ails you. The saloon’s band will play period music. Actors will chat and dance and play cards with the audience.
Until the murder, of course. After the killing, it’s all business as a Pinkerton detective begins interrogating suspects, and passengers begin to turn on each other. Be alert, because if you don’t solve the mystery, you may be accused of committing it. “All the information the audience needs they will hear,” says director Kaitlin Maher, “but if you pay attention to what is not spoken between the characters, you will get a lot more nuggets of what is going on.”
Mary Oliver’s extensive research on the period is matched by her friend and music director April Corbet, who adapted and arranged all the music for the production. Her four person band will include harmonica, bass, piano, voice, and even a viola and mandolin, courtesy of Oliver, who will sit in and perform with the band. Corbet is fascinated by the diverse music of the period, which includes early ragtime, blues, and adaptations of music pioneers brought with them from the old world. All of which will be on display in the production. You can even request tunes.
As with all Apollon productions, the audience member can watch the show or interact with the characters as much as they wish. While watching outstanding actors like Jon Roberson and Mary Beth Slater make for a great evening, the real fun comes with being part of the story, interacting with the cast, questioning other passengers, and trying to figure the mystery out. An aqua vita or two may help you lose your inhibitions. Just remember, the more involved you are in trying to solve the crime, the more you are likely to be implicated in committing it.
“Murder in a Jerkwater Town” runs Thursday through Saturday, February 15, 16, 17 and February 22, 23 and 24 at the Apollon Art Space, 1801 Vinton Street. Doors open at 7 with the performance at 7:30. Tickets are $29. All admissions include dinner and performance. Cash bar is available during performances. No physical ticket is required for admission once you have completed your purchase via the website or at the box office. Recent productions have sold out, so reservations are encouraged. Check them out at apollonomaha.com or call them at (402) 884-0135.