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Get a clue with ‘Who Killed Zolan Mize?’

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BANGOR – The latest offering from Penobscot Theatre Company is a mystery unlike any you’ve ever seen. It’s a tough one to solve – and you’re part of the solution!

“Who Killed Zolan Mize?” is an interactive livestreaming murder mystery created and executed by Rachel and Brendan Powers, a married couple of actors based in Florida. The show is part of PTC’s ongoing Digitus Theatrum season, with performances streaming through April 3. To purchase a link or to find more information, visit the PTC website at or call the box office at 942-3333.

The show plays out live for a limited audience – there are only 20 tickets available for each performance – as a pair of hardboiled detectives question a number of weird and wacky suspects, all in an effort to solve this heinous crime. But here’s the thing – the detectives aren’t alone … because they have YOU!

The millionaire industrialist Zolan Mize has been found murdered in his home, with a cause of death of blunt force trauma. A man like Mize doesn’t get to where he is without making some enemies along the way, so there are a number of possibilities with regard to who might have done the deed.

Detectives Harrison Locke and Lila Bockhorn are the best that the department has to offer, so they’re put on the case. It’s up to them to question the many suspects in the crime, all in an effort to determine which of them is the answer to the titular question – who killed Zolan Mize?

We meet Maggie Newport, an erstwhile dog groomer whose relationship with Mize is a bit more complicated than meets the eye. There’s Marco Damiano, Mize’s longtime business partner with noted anger issues and a significant disagreement regarding the direction of the company going forward. We’ve got Marc Oster von Onderdonk – shortened to Marc O. – Mize’s longtime assistant whose absence at the time of the murder is a bit suspicious (and who has a reputation as a bit of a weirdo). Miss Margot Morsey is Mize’s longtime neighbor; the two have an ongoing disagreement regarding some landscaping issues that resist resolution. And last but not least, we have Marshall and Coco Stark, a married couple of antiquities dealer with a lengthy and troubled professional relationship with Mize.

These are the suspects that Locke and Bockhorn must question. But while the detectives are the only ones in the room, they aren’t the only ones hearing the answers … because you are too!

All along the way, as the investigation continues, the audience is part of the process. Throughout, the detectives ask the audience’s advice and look to them to help piece together any clues or inconsistencies that spring up over the course of their questioning. Through the chat function in Zoom – as well as periods of direct address from the detectives – you the viewer are tasked with determining who did the deed, with your votes serving as the deciding factor in who gets the cuffs, as well as which of the five distinct endings you get.

But while you play the part of co-detective – along with your fellow audience members – Rachel and Brendan are tasked with playing … everybody else. Not only do they play Bockhorn and Locke, respectively, but they play every single one of the suspects, with all of the interrogations and the like playing out in a series of two-person scenes.

Are there ridiculous, rapid-fire costume changes? You bet. Dad jokes and groan-worthy puns? Absolutely. Silly voices (or lack thereof)? Oh yeah! Through it all, Rachel and Brendan bring the thing to life, all from within the small dedicated space they’ve created for themselves in their home.

There are a LOT of impressive aspects to “Who Killed Zolan Mize?” Bringing something like this to fruition involves all manner of moving parts – some of which we can see, but many more that we cannot. It is a remarkably fast-paced show considering the limitations placed upon it – Rachel and Brendan are seasoned professional performers, but crafting a full-length interactive show that not only CAN be done from a repurposed closet, but is INTENDED to? Suffice it to say, it’s quite an experience.

And it is an experience. Not only is the audience engaged in the action of the play itself, but Rachel and Brendan also play the additional shared role of gracious hosts, inviting viewers to participate in a more social sense – there are three mid-show interludes involving in-home scavenger hunts alongside the crime-solving adventure. All that, plus a post-show Q&A with the pair in which they’ll answer any questions you have about the show and the process of creating and producing it.

(Now there are likely some among you who find the idea of direct involvement/engagement with this kind of show to be scary or otherwise off-putting. Don’t panic – one of the great things about the design of the show is that it has been crafted to allow viewers to participate to precisely the level that they choose. Want to get into it, involved with all the clues and scavenger hunts, Zoom camera running all the while? You can do that. Rather consume the show passively, simply watching with minimal engagement? You can do that too! The choice is yours.)

As you might imagine, a show like “Who Killed Zolan Mize?” asks a lot of its performers. Happily, Rachel and Brendan prove more than up to the task, moving from character to goofy character smoothly and swiftly. They make what must be a cramped space feel far more open, all while projecting genuine energy through the screen in a manner that is extremely difficult to execute and maintain over the course of the show’s 90ish minutes.

“Who Killed Zolan Mize?” is not a replacement for live theatre. Nor is it intended to be. It is its own thing, a new kind of performance built upon the limitations of the current circumstances. However, due to the interactive nature of the show – between audience and performer, yes, but also between audience members – there’s an energy reminiscent of being in the room for live theatre. You see faces and hear voices and engage with those sights and sounds. You’re part of a shared experience, something that has been all too rare over the past year.

So get a clue and buy a ticket to “Who Killed Zolan Mize?” You’ll be glad you did.

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 March 2021 09:25


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