Murder? Mystery? Menu!

When Webb and Catherine Vincent purchased their now-famous home in 1879, they didn’t have to deal with murder, robbery or other assorted nastiness.

But in this week’s Vincent House event, the historic couple won’t be so lucky.

This is the second annual Vincent House Murder Mystery, sponsored by the YWCA, which will bring together audience participation, a four-course meal and 10 real-life and fictional characters from the 1880s in a partly scripted, partly improvised performance.

“The setting is 1881 in the spring,” said event organizer Barb Thompson. “The new owners of the Vincent House are Webb and Catherine Vincent, and they are holding a dinner party. One of their guests is Jonathan Dolliver, a new up-and-coming attorney.”

“We had recently moved into the area, and are hosting that party to show off our new house and a new painting we had gotten,” said Shari Burke, who plays Catherine.

Thompson created the story for the evening, but left some details up to the actors.

“I have written a basic outline for the actors, and they’re going from there. They’re learning about their characters and trying to interpret them as best they can,” said Thompson.

“It gets to be very ad-lib, and everybody helps each other along,” Burke said. “A lot of the people in the play this year did it last year; there’s only three or four new ones. It’s nice to have people who have done it before.”

Dolliver, who became a U.S. representative and a U.S. senator, is a colorful character in this play, she said.

“He’s dating all these different women in town, so he invited them all to the party,” said Burke. “They’re against each other the whole evening. They’re finding out he’s dating all of them on different nights of the week.”

Music from that post-Civil War era will also be featured, with Dan Prochaska playing piano.

“They’ll be inviting the audience to sing along with three songs, including ‘I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,'” said Thompson. “The lyrics to that song are just too precious for words. Things like ‘Born like a zephyr on the summer air.’ They don’t write them like that anymore.”

“There’s two songs we have to sing, and we’re terrible,” Burke said. “But they’re real songs from back then, and it has to do with the characters. It fits into the murder mystery really well.”

The audience will need to stay alert to all that’s going on.

“It is more than just a murder,” Thompson said. “There’s something happening in each scene, and audience is going to be really busy trying to solve all the crimes that are happening. They’ve got to be ready to be alert and be sleuths.”

Burke was also in charge of the the meal. Hors d’oeuvres and wine will be offered in the social hour that begins at 6 p.m. Then at 7 p.m. there will be salad, and a main course of chicken Monet, baked potato and glazed carrots, with homemade cheesecake for dessert.

There will be two show dates this year instead of one, Thompson said, because of high demand last year.

“We sold our tickets in half an hour last year,” she said.

Seating is limited, and tickets will not be sold at the door. To buy tickets, call the YWCA at 573-3931, ext. 204.