Start the new year off right … with a murder.

Wait, what?

Written and directed by Charla Garrison, “Murder at the Golden Grand,” an interactive murder mystery dinner, opens at Marathon Community Theatre on New Year’s Eve. In the wake of suspicious cat burglaries at Golden Grand Hotels all around the globe, the audience is pressed with the task of aiding Inspector Sally Trumaine (played by Garrison) as she attempts to track down the Notorious Cat Burglar. When thievery evolves into murder, Trumaine needs all the help she can get as she investigates Rissa (Giselle Van der Waal), Gig (Larry Garrison) and Parker (Terry Israel).

Sporting a cast of four with a combined 20 MCT shows under their belts, the veteran actors have taken it upon themselves to get a head start in rehearsals. “The cast is so prepared,” said Garrison. “They’ve already put the hard work in. They’ve got their characters, and we’re ahead of target. We’re mostly off book already.”

As opposed to August’s “Invitation to Murder,” the new show’s smaller cast allows for more direct interaction with the audience throughout the show.

“The audience is another cast member, much more so in this one,”

said Garrison. “But it’s as much or as little interaction as each individual wants. You can usually tell in the pre-show who wants to be involved.”

While half the cast has been involved in a previous murder mystery, two of the four are enjoying the transition to the engaging format after appearing in traditional productions on MCT’s main stage. “The biggest challenge is moving around and making sure that you not only interact with the audience, but they get to see and hear everything,” said Israel. “We have to incorporate the unknown.”

The hotel setting also provides additional comic relief. “We live in a tourism destination, and we get to make fun of a hotel. That’s hilarious,” said Van der Waal. “We get to talk to people who might be tourists as a satire of someone working in a hotel. The improv is really fun, because we all work around tourism.”

“Murder at the Golden Grand” is presented as a dinner theatre performance. While there is a set script, the cast roams freely around the room and interacts with patrons as guests use the performance and written clues to guess the culprit. But don’t worry: there’s no such thing as a spoiler alert, because each night of the show will have a different ending. 

Breaks in the action allow guests to enjoy a catered meal by chef Jamie Pruitt, while beer, wine and liquor are available at the MCT concessions bar. “Chef Jamie is a wonderful host,” said Israel. “He’s great at reading the audience and who he’s catering to.” 

“He’s the difference between having dinner and making it a party,” said Van der Waal. 

“Murder at the Golden Grand” opens on New Year’s Eve, with additional performances on Jan. 1 and 2. Tickets are $75 for the New Year’s Eve performance, including a champagne toast and special New Year’s menu, or $65 for the weekend performances, and are available at www.marathontheater.org or by calling 305-743-0994.

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Hailing from Rhode Island, the Ocean State, Alex has always spent as much of his life as possible in and around the water. A dolphin trainer by profession, he still spends most of his free time diving, spearfishing, and JetSkiing. Once it gets too dark for those things, he can usually be found at the Marathon Community Theater, where he spends most nights still trying to figure out what the heck he is doing.