WhoopDeDoo Productions' Homicide for the Holidays (running through Jan. 25 at the West Side Club) is a cheerful whodunit complemented by karaoke and carrot cake.
The company describe the show as "interactive" dinner theater - and they're not kidding. Actors mingle with the audience over appetizers at the club's bar (patrons who want to catch every clue should arrive promptly) and circulate around the tables during dinner, schmoozing with guests and ad-libbing in character. In fact, the only action that occurs on the tiny stage is audience-participation karaoke. The result is less a traditional play than lighthearted performance art.
Midway through the meal, the audience is told that semi-competent psychic Crystal Ball (Sasha Kowalski) has been found dead just outside the dining room. Everyone is a suspect, from the freshly fired bartender Holly Berry (Sandy Stauffacher) to the ebullient Chef Femeril (Michael Bruno). Even disc jockey Dick "Please call me Richard" Clark (Justin Gruchow) is not what he seems. The evening unfolds like a gossipy game of Clue, with each table of diners using what they've heard - or overheard - to figure out the killer and the motive.
The show's spontaneous, improvisational nature leaves some of the plot points seeming quite vague, and the identities and motivations of a few characters are buried in the noisy dinnertime bustle. But getting all the facts straight is not the point. The point is to enjoy the party. The West Side Club's welcoming atmosphere, filled with larger-than-life performances from talented actors like Stauffacher and Bruno, makes guests feel comfortable enough to strike up conversations with strangers or to get up and belt out a tune. For a murder mystery, Homicide for the Holidays has a lot to say about the generosity and good nature of the season.