Glen Burnie' dining experience


Do or Die Productions spoofs 3 popular television series

November 21, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to the Sun

Betty Tape staggered into the dimly lit room wearing a red feather boa, and an evening gown that was torn and splattered with blood. Her face was bruised and she had a noose around her neck.

"My dress is ruined," she wailed as she fell backward onto the floor and died.

Well, not really.

Actually, she was playing the part of a flamboyant philanthropist in the premiere of an interactive murder mystery called CSI Glen Burnie by Do or Die Productions Inc. at Whispers Restaurant on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Glen Burnie.

The murder mystery was created because CSI popped up in other company productions, said Carol Jeane Crowe, founder of Do or Die Productions, who wrote the show.

"We were getting audiences wanting technical details during our shows," said the 44-year-old Glen Burnie resident. "We responded that they were watching too much CSI. The television shows came up so much that I decided to write a parody and localize it."

(Three CSI shows are on the air, the original set in Las Vegas and others in Miami and New York.)

Crowe said she started doing murder mysteries in 1987 with a 67-page screenplay called A Thief Unearthed.

"It was well-received at the time," she said. "But now I think that it must have been abysmal."

She founded Do or Die Productions in 1993. Today, the acting troupe includes 16 core members and about 25 auxiliary members who perform at three public venues as well as private and corporate parties, she said.

The company has created 42 mystery dinners, with CSI Glen Burnie being the newest.

The performance included a prelude to the killing, in which the characters were introduced, the investigation, in which the audience participated, and a conclusion, where the murderer was revealed.

The setting of the show was a kickoff party of a new state-of-the-art criminal forensics facility donated by a Glen Burnie philanthropist named Betty Tape.

Portrayed by Darcy Nair, 41, of Gaithersburg, Tape was a flamboyant character dressed in red, who irritated everyone around her. To create her character, Nair watched Laverne & Shirley and Liza Minnelli, she said.

"I wanted to make the character outrageous," said Nair, who is a musician and performer. "And in improvisation, it's the easiest type of character to play because you just go with it. You can do anything you want based on the audience."

Ignaceous "Itch" Crain, who came from Miami, was hired by Tape to be the director of the facility. Played by Jose de la Mar, Itch was dressed in black and was a spoof of David Caruso's CSI: Miami character, Horatio Caine. During the show, he repeatedly put on his sunglasses and took them off, a la Caruso.

To prepare for his character, he watched CSI: Miami, said de la Mar, 41, of Elkridge.

"Caruso's character is one-dimensional," said de la Mar, who teaches theater and makes his living as an actor. "It was easy to create the character."

The tough part is playing the character, without all the words, to an audience you don't know, he said.

"When you play a part in a theater production you have the words written for you," he said. "You analyze the words and create the character. But murder mysteries are the exact opposite. You develop the character by studying someone else ... an actor on television, or a neighbor ... and then you create the words every time you do the show. It changes, according to the audience."

Earl Dorsey, Tape's nephew and heir to her vast fortune, was portrayed by John Kelso, 31, of Baltimore. Although Earl was intellectually challenged, his aunt made him supervisor of the facility even though his crime-scene investigation experience came from what he learned from the book, CSI for Dummies.

Playing Earl came naturally, Kelso said.

"I didn't have to think too hard to be Earl," Kelso said. "I just shut down my ability to think and tried to be very naive. I love the feeling of being out there without a net."

Erin Tarpley portrayed Cheryl Shipley, Earl's fiancee. Betty didn't approve of Cheryl or the engagement, so Cheryl was less than a fan of hers. Although the character was tough to play, it was the chance of a lifetime, Tarpley joked.

"Any opportunity I get to pick my nose in front of people, I'll take," said Tarpley, a senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who is studying theater and history and who did indeed pick her nose throughout the show. "I like portraying people who are out there. But I also see a little bit of myself in every character I play."

Patrick McPartlin took on the role of Darius Grieving, a conservative county coroner. In his spare time, from his job inspecting and repairing cranes, McPartlin, 49, of Baltimore, took an acting class where he met Crowe.

His characters are a mix of his personality and the stereotypical characters in films, he said.

"The more people recognize a character, the more involved they become," he said.

And Crowe played the part of Sue E. Sidle, a character based "loosely" on the character Sarah Sidle from the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Crowe's character had transferred to the lab after her affair with Gil Gruesome went bad.

Crowe created a character that she hoped would make people laugh, she said.

"I am a person who is driven by making people laugh," she said. "I want them to put `She Made Us Laugh' on my gravestone."

After the characters were introduced and their motives established, they mingled with the crowd, answered questions and let the crowd get to know them.

The interaction was great, said Kristen Bishel, 26, of Baltimore, who came to see the show Sunday. No additional performances have been scheduled.

"It was great that the audience could participate so much," she said. "The audience asked a lot of questions, and it was fun to try to help expose the murderer."

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