Gabriel Nunez and Liam Young answer questions posed to them by audience members at the PUHS production of “Café Murder.” Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Students at the Patagonia High School entertained audiences with two performances of “Café Murder,” an interactive murder mystery and dinner theater experience, held Oct. 25 and 26 at the school. 

Guests were first served a murder themed meal, prepared by Audrey Doles, that included bloody basil soup, lasagna that’s to die for, and ‘death by chocolate’ dessert topped with a killer strawberry glaze. The menu came with a disclaimer that “No suspects were harmed in the making of this meal…we think.” The school cafeteria was transformed into a bistro, complete with black tablecloths and flowers at each table, that served as part of the set of the play, which takes place at a café where one of the diners is murdered. 

The mystery unfolds as the victim, played by Rebecca Ford, disappears off stage where her body is discovered. The victim’s brothers, played by Nicholas Dekhtyar, Andres Hoyos, Carlos Chap, and Lenin Albarran; the waiter, played by Wyatt Rowell; the maître‘d, played by Olivia Blystone; the chef, played by Gabriel Nunez; and the detective, played by Liam Young; all are suspects. These characters then visited with the audience, who had to guess who the murderer was after asking the characters questions about the crime.

The suspects gather as the killer is unveiled in the final act of “Café Murder.” (From left) Olivia Blystone, Andres Hoyos, Nicholas Dekhtyar, Lenin Albarran, Carlos Chap, Wyatt Rowell, Gabriel Nunez, and Liam Young. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Despite some acoustic issues, the play was well received by the audience. The students made the most of the snappy dialogue and almost slap stick nature of the production. They were at their best, however, when they went from table to table interacting with the audience. They all managed to stay in character as they improvised their cleverly evasive answers to the guests’ questions. 

The play, and the evening, was directed by PUHS teacher Journee Hayes. Her passion for language and for her students was evident in the attention to detail and the enthusiasm of her actors. The school, and the community, are enriched by her presence.