Houston Mystery Cafe, quick review

So my love and I went to Houston’s Mystery Cafe. Mysteries are kinda her thing (like cooking is mine), and she’s an absolute fan of the Decipher / Intuitive marketing Host-a-Murder games. And the tickets were a gift.

So bottom line: We went to the one in Chattanooga and were kinda meh about it. Given the choice between Houston and Chattanooga I’ll take Chattanooga.

Now the thing to keep in mind is that almost all of these shows are a bit Vaudeville. I mean, you’re eating dinner and there’s this play interspersed. A murder happens, some more clues are tossed, and then you the audience are supposed to toss in your guess as to whodunnit. If they did it noir or anything BUT slapstick comedy you’d ruin some appetites. I get that.

But here’s a partial list of my complaints. First, the food. At the price I was paying and the location I expected a somewhat upscale meal. I did not expect the noodles of my tagliatelli to be mushy. In fairness the sauce (a basil cream with a balsamic reduction accent, with artichoke hearts and enoki mushrooms) was tasty even though the veggies were a bit overcooked. My wife’s chicken breast was… convention quality, and the mashed potatoes were heavy (and somewhat spicy, something they didn’t warn us about. Which matters for my wife.)

The salad was ok, the dessert – a red cake with white buttercream – wasn’t bad.

All together, not bad for convention food. Too bad it was supposed to be more than that.

But the meal isn’t supposed to be the big deal. Instead it’s the show, right?

Several of the actors forgot who they were playing at least once. As in saying “x said, wait I’m x I mean y said” stuff. It felt like there was a lot of ad libbing – or forgotten lines and covering. Comedy is hard, but a key trick is that zaniness is special effects, the real comedy comes from the actor BEING that character, not an actor playing that character. fwiw there were a couple who did this, and I felt most of them managed it at least once. But not consistently. Zany to be zany, not because that’s who they are and what’s happening (however absurd that is.)

It wasn’t helped by the play itself. Oh, they got all the clues out to most of the tables, but it was necessary for them to have ‘hints’ at the tables as well. Yes, written hints of what to look for, or to ask the characters as they wandered the room during courses. (Act 1. Salad course. Act 2. Main. Act 3. Dessert – more or less, but that really got jumbled.) Thing is, if the actor or actress told one side of a table something that was the only side that heard it due to crowd noise.

It was… disjointed is the word I’ll go with. A bit more plot and development would have helped a lot.

I have been to worse. I have been to junior high school plays. On the other hand I’ve been to better junior high school plays. And community theater. And, well, you get the idea.

Would I recommend it? Maybe. I know some people who would enjoy it even as it was. But in general? No. Not unless you had tried a lot of other things and just wanted to do something different – and didn’t really care about dropping $60 apiece, or got a gift card.

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