Things to do in Denver when you're native: Adams Mystery Playhouse
After last week's trip down memory lane for the thirtieth anniversary of the 16th Street Mall, I started to think about all of the places around this city that I've never visited. Since I'm a Colorado native, I've find it easy to all but ignore attractions that seem to be targeted to visitors and transplants. But after my return to the mall, I started wondering what I might have been missing.
So this weekend, I decided to check out the Adams Mystery Playhouse, 2406 Federal Boulevard, and its latest play, Welcome to Murder Mortuary. An evening here includes dinner, a scavenger hunt, a cocktail hour and a show that runs more than two hours; you get the works for around $50 (the meal is included, but drinks and tips are additional.) But the chance to mingle with strangers and actors in this creepy, antiqued mansion is a free bonus!
Co-owners Carlos Cuellar and Marne Wills-Cuellar host the evening inside a beautiful, turn-the-last century Denver home that was once a mortuary. They're on-site and fully active in the Adams' Mystery Playhouse shows; in fact, as you roll up to the building, Carlos can be found directing traffic, making sure each guest gets a nice and legal parking spot.
Cast of Welcome to Murder Mortuary.
Meeting an owner before we even entered the home was a solid indicator of how the evening would play out: This couple not only likes what they do, they enjoy engaging with their guests. Once those guests are inside the door, Marne checks reservations, gives scavenger-hunt instructions and encourages interaction with the actors, who are already working the dimly lit room. A pre-show cocktail hour allows adult guests to get lubricated and younger ones to get acquainted with space, and sets the tone for what is about to unfold -- an interactive, space-invading production where shyness is left at the door.
For me, this forced interaction was perhaps the best part of the evening. Unless you come with a party of ten, chances are you'll share a banquet table with a group of strangers, all with the understanding that you'll have to actually talk to each other and work together to solve the story's mystery.
Once we were all inside the dining area, Carlos and Marne introduced the space and gave some instruction on the evening's schedule, then herded diners through two buffet lines. The food wasn't amazing -- after all, it is a buffet -- but was secondary to the entertainment, anyway. And throughout the evening, there were lots of reasons for everyone to get up, dance and walk around -- which kept them awake after they'd been eating and sitting a while.