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 [F] Mystery Net Community  / TV, Movies & More  / Stage  /

Stage Mysteries: The Format
Discuss how a stage mystery is different from other types of mysteries.

• What makes them a unique experience?
• What do you enjoy about them?
• How is a good stage mystery different from a bad one?

Previous MessagesEarliest MessagesOutlineRecent Messages (3 previous messages)
mike morgan - 11:48am Nov 17, 1997 PST(#4 of 11)

Rich raises a good point about the portrayal of too-trusting wives and evil husbands. There are reverse examples, too, but for the most part the mystery genre has offered us credulous women being victimized by opportunistic men.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that a good many of the authors of more traditional mysteries have been women. At least, we must consider that, if we accpet the mystery as a morality play or sorts, then we must recognize that this type of victimization is one of western society's greatest concerns (i.e., domestic violence, female subversion in a patriarchal society). Whatever the merits of such a concern, it exists.

I think what I hear you saying is too many aithors and playwrights take the easy way out and don't portray people in a realistic enough light. But you must admit, even if a spouse suspects something, it's difficult at best to believe that they mean you any real harm, so it's easier to go along and provide the spouse with what he asks for. many emotions come into play, such as low self-esteem, fear of abandonment and violence, doubt as to your own perceptions, and sometimes, yes, even misguided trust. That is to say, women believe their husbands all the time, and the result is sometimes robbery, deceit or death.

Our writers should, I agree, address those concerns instead of opting for simplistic portrayals in the interest of expediency. Check out "Night Must Fall" for an interesting twist: a young woman in need of oove desperately tries to believe the man she loves is NOT a killer, but must eventually face the music.

Rich Weill - 01:34pm Nov 17, 1997 PST(#5 of 11)

Mike, I guess I look at stage mysteries more functionally than ideologically. A stage thriller doesn't have to be particularly realistic. Indeed, Brooks Atkinson wrote eloquently in the 50's that a stage mystery must suit the theater's penchant for the unrealistic; it must be a kind of game.

I'm looking for a good story. I'm looking for unpredictable twists. I'm looking for a novel, but satisfying, ending. Trite characters and situations detract from my ability to enter this unrealistic world and enjoy the twists and surprises I crave.

mike morgan - 08:05pm Nov 20, 1997 PST(#6 of 11)

Sorry, Rich. I think we are actually on the same wavelength.

I'm looking for the story and the game aspect, as well. That's what I mean when I talk about the metaphoric side of mystery stories in a way, it's a puzzle, just like the greatest of literature's parables. I guess what I was getting at was the need for a plausible construction for the world of the play. If the characters and the story don't ring true within their own worlds, then I can't suspend my disbelief. I can enjoy a play where the wife doesn't suspect a thing about her husband's evil doings, but not if in the previous scene that wife is shown to be a strong, savvy woman who wouldn't be fooled by anything.

Check out the plays of Tim Kelly, such as "Murder in the Magnolias" and "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night." These are loving spoofs of the stage mystery, and are wickedly funny. Every character and plot device you've ever seen in a stage mystery shows up in these scripts, and Kelly helps us have some delicious fun with the genre, along the lines of Neil Simon's "Murder By Death." There are bumps in the night, menacing hands reaching from behind dark curtains, characters who aren't who they say they are, bridges washed out in a storm, lovely damsels in distress, mysterious poisonings, etc.

mike morgan - 09:54pm Mar 22, 1998 PST(#7 of 11)

Just saw Angel Street by patrick Hamilton (see posting in Plays in general.) I wanted to comment that this play is a bit unusual in that the audience pretty much knows the solution to the mystery early on, as one of the characters offers a complete explanation in an early scene. But the piece works well because of the tension that is created by knowing that a killer is lurking, but not knowing how to catch him or what he will do next. Then again, is the explanation offered by the police detective in Act I the correct version of what happened? Any thoughts on suspense versus puzzle in a stage mystery?

Scott MacDonald - 07:32pm May 19, 1998 PST(#8 of 11)

Gentleman: As an actor on stage, I find your reasoning sound. It is an exciting thing to present the audience with the pitfalls and pratfalls of the stage. I myself have delivered some lines that I wish I could take back. The thrill of building on the emotions of the audience is hard to describe, but I think you get the point.

mike morgan - 05:33pm Jun 17, 1998 PST(#9 of 11)

Scott MacDonald: What parts have you played? What differences have you found as an actor between playing more hard-edged, dramatic roles and more comedic fare?

De Smet Jan - 06:49am Jan 26, 2002 PST(#10 of 11)

We are preparing a kind of interactive mystery-game in a real location (library) The intention is to entertain 25 people by letting them solve a mystery. They can solve it by finding hidden hints and talking with the actors. The problem at this moment is: how can we guarantee the play won't run out of control? How do we have to 'manage' the audience in their way to solve the mystery?

Marc Zelman - 04:43pm Feb 1, 2003 PST(#11 of 11)

The best staged murder mystery out there is ERIC SHARP's Murder Mystery. Check out - The mystery isn't easy to solve but when it comes together, you go "a ha".

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