Thurs. July 7, 14, 21
6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Beam Room at Front Street Brewery
9 N. Front St.
www.porchtheatre.com • $20-40
There are three things everyone should know about the traditional Irish family in the midst of celebration: they are probably drunk, they are definitely loud, and they’re taking over the Beam Room at Front Street Brewery! Suzann Smith, local playwright and mastermind behind Porch Theatre Company, has crafted a unique experience that delves deep into the realm of mystery dinner theater, and deeper into the lightheartedness of the unparalleled Irish spirit.
When beloved local Irishman, Rory Mulligan, passes away, the entire town gathers to remember him. What’s the catch? The wake takes place in the Mulligan family pub, with Rory’s killer present. It’s up to the audience to solve the murder by interacting with the characters, all the while enjoying delicious Irish food catered by Front Street Brewery.
The show takes place on the third floor of the brewery amidst a fully decked-out set, complete with dusted-over pictures and fake flower centerpieces. “We try to make it seem like it hasn’t been updated in years,” Smith says.
The Beam Room is the perfect setting for the audience to become a part of the show, as it puts everyone on a similar level and leaves the actors intermingled. All of the components of the funeral play into one another to create a believable environment for the audience.
Smith says the play was the brainchild of her apprenticeship with an Irish gentlemen who not only sparked her imagination but also taught her the value of a strong work ethic. The play is an embodiment of her old mentor’s spirit in the medium of a less traditional dramatic form: dinner theater. “I think this town is now ready for this type of theater,” Smith says. “Sometimes you just want to go out and have fun.” Without a doubt, this type of theater combined with Smith’s imagination has led to a dynamic cocktail that could certainly keep Porch Theatre Company in the limelight.
Perhaps what sets them apart from other, more well-known dinner theater (“Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding”) is that the experience revolves less around the raw improv of the actors and more on the concept that the actors are putting on a play for and with the audience. Normally, a show like this would have basic plot parameters that allow the actors to wreak their havoc, but in this special case, the actors have songs to be sung and dances to be danced. The audience is asked questions about their relationship and encounters with Rory Mulligan, and expected to be active participants in the show, which should rarely be a problem due to the whimsical nature of the Irish.
Two of the actors, Heather Setzler and Nathan Verwey, have been with Smith from the genesis of Porch Theater Company five years ago, which inspires a certain chemistry that all-new casts tend to lack. Smith, who has an impressive amount of acting experience in Wilmington, has had the special opportunity to write her shows with specific actors in mind, making them entirely her unique vision. “We think we’re quite funny—we laugh so hard at rehearsals,” Smith muses.