Roped in to act out a murder mystery, all thanks to wine

At least there was alcohol.

There I stood in a garish tweed jacket rolled to the elbows, with my girlfriend’s black beret rakishly obscuring my vision. Meanwhile, some guy named Jack accused me of writing a pre-mortem obituary for the dead guy in the bathroom, but at least I had a drink in my hand.

Blinking in the blazing fluorescence of the cavernous room, raking my semi-intoxicated brain for the hastily memorized lines, my only solace was that everybody else looked almost as ridiculous as I did.

Roped in, I thought. I was so roped in.

Hazy plans 

Tash, my lady, had rolled her eyes at me when I’d snatched her hat and The “crime scene” photos used for a dossier we distributed to the room to get the Lions involved in the performance.

Photo by Dan Mackenzie
wedged it foppishly on my own head. The mirror told me I looked like a piece of sartorial, neo-expressionist art. Something entitled “Bob Dylan Having a Fist Fight with the Entire Cast of Miami Vice”. Perfect.

The debacle had begun a week previous. Sitting around an immaculate dining room table with four women discussing an improv murder mystery performance over white wine was my first mistake.

Nothing good comes from sipping white wine.

Improv in Calgary

Loose Moose Theater

  • Hilarious improv performances on Friday and Saturday. The greatest news? They now serve alcohol.

The 404s

Dirty Laundry

  • Performers act out a weekly episodic soap opera that runs all season – comedy style, and all completely improvised

SAMRU Improvination Club

  • An improv club at Mount Royal University. If you are a student interesting in joining, email improvination@gmail.com

Improv Guild 

University of Calgary Improv Club

This one was frosty and sweet, grapefruit and honey, the velvety paw of a purring lioness. Make no mistake though, by the time I agreed to play the role, they had gotten me drunk — softly though, like I had been stroked to sleep with brass knuckles. The paw became a pincushion before I realized what was happening.

This is why men drink Scotch in the basement. Hemmingway’s clean and well-lit place probably didn’t involve white wine and Precious Moments figurines.

The big night

I don’t know what exactly I had envisioned when I was told that we were performing for the Lions Club. But somehow I must have expected the translucent gloom of a basement bar.

Maybe I expected something close, something intimate, something with an old fashioned wooden stage that creaked underfoot where the bartender wore sleeve garters — the same ones, perhaps, that he’d been wearing since 1940.

What I didn’t expect was a roistering gymnasium, lit like it was the quarterfinals. Dozens of tables, each a stubby octopi sprawl of chairs, facilitated modular gossip like floating cells.

A very large woman in garish floral print bawled her laughter at a passing remark and sat down at the table it came from. She occupied two spots, but only required one chair.

The kaleidoscopic shriek of children cut through the din as they chased each other through the obstacle course.

Along one wall an enormous cheeseboard, under the weight of 27 different cheeses, creaked like a galleon in a gale. Serving as the dot on the exclamation mark was the bar. I marked its location for future consideration.

The gym was fairly glowing with the combined radiation of two hundred intoxicated Lions. I could already feel the perspiration welling around my hat-band.

Curtain Call

As the troupe launched into the performance, I launched myself toward the bar. Two-dollar drinks are not to be dismissed. I sampled the bar’s sad excuse for Scotch — a pale embarrassment to the whiskey family which didn’t so much evaporate on the lips as it did apologetically ram itself directly into the blood stream. I switched to red wine. It was watery, but adequate.

Tash was playing the part of the slutty bar waitress that evening. She was all heels and legs and cleavage tonight, drawing lecherous drunken stares from the aging Lions. The short, tight skirt she was wearing restricted movement and every step she took had to be deliberate. The staccato pock-pock-pock of her shoes trailed after her like an angry woodpecker.

She pock-pock-pocked my way and waved a manicured fingernail accusingly under my nose jarring me from my own lecherous drunken reverie.

Right, the play.

There were four scenes. Each came with necessary information that needed to be revealed, an accusation from each character and a defense. It was all I could do to keep my facts straight. Between the heat of the room, the itchy tweed jacket and the wine, I was on fire.

Somehow I bumbled and stumbled my way through the rest. Finally finished, I yanked the soaking cap off of my head and aimed myself at the exit and the nearest snow-bank beyond. Fire quelled.

I had no illusions about launching a career that night and, let me tell you, I had removed all doubt. But I got a few laughs, had a few drinks, terrorized my digestive system with unpronounceable cheese and overall had a good time. I was glad I’d been roped in.

dmackenzie@cjournal.ca