So I'm sitting at a dinner table with Uma Thurman when I receive and open a package stuffed with a sad pair of oversized tighty whities.
Silverware clinks, heads turn, and 30 or so people begin laughing as I stretch the underwear high above my head for all to witness. One of the cops mocks my "grandpa panties" through a wry face.
And then the bullets tumble from the box.
Yup ... it's a total setup. And that's the point. Welcome to the Dinner Detective Interactive Murder Mystery Dinner Show. Leave your true identity behind and compete to find the killer — between courses. The winning gumshoe earns a prize worth $75.
So let's back up. Uma Thurman, we'll later learn, is one of the Dinner Detective actors posing as a regular dinner guest. We've all made out fake name tags, so the celebrity knockoff isn't surprising, but for the fact that the actress actually looks a little like Miss Kill Bill.
The ammunition and loser bikini are show props, conveniently dropped along with clues printed out on office paper for sleuths to share. The table at which we sit is dressed for a four-course and wholly serviceable meal inside an Embassy Suites event room.
The masking-tape outline of a body on the flower-print carpet between the tables? Oh, that's just a taste of things to come.
"I've seen a handful of other murder mystery shows, and they were all hokey," says DD executive producer Stephen Wilder. "With this show, we try to keep everything lively and fresh. We don't do lame scenarios ... I don't want to say, 'OK, it's one of these six people.' It could be anyone in the room. You have to pay attention."
Wilder and his wife Aubrey (34 and 32, respectively) signed on with the original Los Angeles DD crew in 2007, and performed for them until moving to metro Denver in late 2008. They purchased the company's first franchise and began offering shows in Boulder in January 2009, and five months later began staging in Denver. Though Denver and Colorado Springs are now the main stages, seasonal and private bookings are still offered in Boulder, Fort Collins and Golden.
"We pull from a massive talent pool of improvisers in Denver," says Stephen, who also founded Denver's Hit and Run Musical Improv group. "Our actors have been all over the country and the world — they're top-notch."
Wilder and crew currently rotate through four different, untitled scripts that originated in L.A., and they're in the process of writing a new one. (Folks who've seen one and wish to see the others can call the box office for info on future dates.)
So as not to ruin the script we saw for others, I'll only say that a good portion of it was improvised around a few key scenes. The actors blended in well, posing a challenging crime-solve, while Wilder and his clueless cop cohort earned genuine laughs with dumb quips about things like "knife-powder residue."
Whether you, too, will end up grasping grippies over your coffee ... well, it's a mystery.