In seaside Santa Barbara, where a multitude of artful diversions are on offer any given evening, something new has arrived in port. Prism Productions, the same folks who bring you high-quality dinner theater at Circle Bar B, are branching out into a different type of eating-plus-entertainment experience.
“Murder on the Waterfront” is an interactive murder mystery at Chuck’s Waterfront Grill, including a three-course dinner and an original, largely improvised whodunit with a gaggle of fine local actors who cleverly intersperse themselves with the guests to act out their tale. The second of three scheduled winter performances took place Feb. 11, with the final show set for Feb. 26.
After gathering on the patio overlooking the harbor for optional pre-dinner cocktails, guests are ushered into the restaurant at 6:30 p.m., the scheduled start time. Singles and small groups are seated together at large tables, encouraging friendly conversation and speculation among guests on the twists and turns of the proceedings.
Starting with a little light bickering at the cocktail hour, the characters really get going once everyone is seated. The haughty yacht captain Buffy Harrison stalks about sullenly as his wife, Muffy and her consort, Dr. Quartermaine, continue their argument at higher volumes. A flamboyant young woman named Blaze wanders about flirtatiously while her date, Dax, sits by quietly, and her accountant brother, Henry, is just generally cantankerous.
Suddenly, one of the characters turns up dead, and Detective Diddle and Inspector Patrice arrive on the scene to question everyone present.
Guests are free to participate as much or as little as they like. Last week, some threw themselves into the solving of the mystery, questioning the various characters intensively, while others sat back, mainly observing. The performers did a good job of circulating among the tables, checking in to see if guests had any questions, and if they were informed on the situation.
There is a strong incentive for attendees to ferret out the killer, as those who guess correctly win a free appetizer at their next visit, and of those, a name is drawn for the grand prize, a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant.
It is a fun and relaxing evening of informal theater and dining, with one more chance to enjoy this unique opportunity. Once Circle Bar B’s dinner theater season opens in April, these folks will have their hands full for the rest of the year.
The final murder mystery dinner of the series will take place Wednesday, Feb. 26. Tickets are $68 for the three-course dinner and show. Clam chowder to start and a delicious Death by Chocolate (appropriately enough) dessert are included, with the entrée a choice of sesame-crusted halibut or top sirloin steak. Nonalcoholic beverages are included with the meal, with cocktails, beer and wine available for purchase.
Seats can be reserved by calling 805.564.1200, or emailing Chuck’s owner Steve Hyslop at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.