Oakmont Elks plan dinner, murder-mystery | TribLIVE.com
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Darla Vollero (front, from left), Dennis Kanouff, Frank Vollero and Marilyn McNally and (back, from left), Bill Dold, Bud Perrone, Jan Schlegel, Harry Schlegel, Debbie Kennelly and Coleen Middlemas rehearse a scene from 'Murder at Blackheath Manor' performed by the Oakmont Elks on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014.

What better way to spend a night out than with dinner and a show? How about dinner, a show and a birthday party — complete with cards, cake and a mystery to solve?

All of the above will be featured Nov. 7 and 8 when the Oakmont Elks present “Murder at Blackheath Manor,” a comic murder-mystery preceded by a buffet dinner.

The mystery begins when casketmaker Methuselah Bones invites an oddball assortment of friends and family to his home, Blackheath Manor, to celebrate his 100th birthday. His party turns into a whodunit when Methuselah turns up dead.

“He’s thought to be pretty well off, but, by this time in his life, he’s gone through a lot of his money,” says Frank Vollero, who plays Methuselah. “He’s suspicious that a lot of the people coming to his birthday party are there to get a share of his money.”

Adding to the mystery is the fact that some of the characters are not who they pretend to be. “It has a lot of twists and turns,” says writer and director Marilyn McNally. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

More than being a nail-biter, the play is meant to entertain and involve the audience. Those who wish may bring a humorous birthday card, which might just be read aloud during the play.

Audience members will be treated to a slice of birthday cake.

In addition to writing and directing the play, McNally portrays Eva Ruger, Methuselah’s secretary.

“She is strange,” McNally says of her character. “She tries to be bossy and in charge, but, basically, she’s just a meek and mild person. She puts on a good show. She walks around with a whip and tries to keep people in line.”

The play is populated with over-the-top characters, most of whom have outrageous names.

“That’s part of the fun of the play, that every character is not a typical real-life person,” says Dennis Kanouff, who plays the female nurse Honey Belle. “Even the names aren’t real: Honey Belle, Rump Roast, Pot Roast, Alvis Parsley — they’re all a play on words.”

He describes Honey Belle as “a floozy” and a world traveler.

“It’s a murder-mystery, but it’s a spoof,” Kanouff says. “The characters make the audience laugh, and we make each other laugh.”

That laughter can be hard to resist for Vollero, whose character is in a coffin for a large part of the night. However, if he cracks a smile, it’s not the end of the world. “(The audience) is there for a good time, not for deep thought,” he says. “It’s just silliness and fun.”

Kanouff sees the play as an escape from everyday life. “I’m positive that if people come to the play, they’ll enjoy it, and they’ll go home feeling good. It’s an evening where they can forget about the world and have a good time.”

The event is a fundraiser for Elks-supported charities, which benefit people with disabilities, veterans programs and community-improvement projects.

Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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