As I watched it, I didn’t quite know what to make of Heart of the Mummy: A Magpie Sisters Radio Play Mystery! at StageCoach Theatre Company. It’s an interactive murder mystery radio play-within-a-play. It features sophomoric humor, malapropisms, and sexual wordplay. Written and directed by R. Aaron Thompson, it’s a cozy evening of dinner theater if you approach it with an escapist attitude.
The Magpie Sisters (aka actors-within-the-play Jenny Sterling and Rachel Silver) are sleuthing on the Mighty Mystery Hour on KKIL Radio. The real-life audience, imagining they are snowed in at the Blanco Hotel in Denver, is standing in for the imaginary cast. The real-life audience must fill in some of the roles and enter the “theater of the mind” that is radio.
The mystery is: Who may have killed the Magpie Sisters’ favorite radio playwright and Egyptologist Race Grey? Was Grey pushed from a train? Grey had written such plays as The Mummy Who Loved Me and Spirit of the Mummy.
The Magpie Sisters wind up investigating the tomb of Princess Nefertiti Common Hotep (Whore-Tep?), which is haunted by her suitor Karlis. The story goes that the mummified heart of the princess can raise the dead.
Names of places like the Ravenwood Museum were thrown around. Ravenwood was a character from the film Indiana Jones, which prominently featured Egypt. (Apparently, there is a real Ravenwood Museum, devoted to all things Indiana Jones.)
Stephanie Swift played Jenny Sterling and Tierney Thompson (understudying Cassandra Redding) played Rachel Silver. Darius Fraser played multiple roles, including Gray’s assistant and play narrator Victor Knight, Asim the Egyptian, and a doomed security guard. Swift and Thompson wore black dresses that channeled a Halloween vibe. Frasier sported a flashy brown vest and wore a cool, red fez as Dorman.
The main props were clipboards with scripts and toy microphones attached, which the actors held the entire performance. The actors appeared to read the scripts rather than act them, which took away from their performances to a degree. However, their delivery of Thompson’s script made for a cheerful audience.
A few members of the audience, chosen before curtain, played characters such as Evelyn Carter and the mysterious Lady Calypso. Audience-actors read from scripts into microphones as they stood at their tables. The awkwardness of some of the audience-actors added spontaneity to the show.
The long stream of silly malapropisms kept coming: esophagus instead of sarcophagus, fetal instead of fatal, negligee instead of negligence. Some of the malapropisms were racy in their sex and anatomy references. Offbeat as they were, they kept the audience laughing out loud.
There was no set. The actors wandered around and through the tables in a small dining room at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens in Leesburg, Virginia — once a working plantation. The dining room featured impressive wood paneling and had good acoustics.
Speaking of acoustics, Terry Smith and Thompson created great sound design. I liked sound effects such as mummy breath, a gunshot, and the sounds of unfortunate people meeting their end via mummy.
Thompson has directed an enjoyable evening of escapist fare. If you go, be sure to have a heart to laugh.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Heart of the Mummy plays through November 18, 2023, presented by StageCoach Theatre Company performing at various locations in Virginia. Purchase tickets online or call the box office at 571-477-9444.
Note from StageCoach Theatre: All murder mysteries are what we would rate as PG13. There are usually sexual innuendo, mild swear words, and, of course, murder. It is up to you as a parent to determine whether it will be suitable for your child to attend a performance. Some venues may have age restrictions.
COVID Safety: All guests may choose to wear masks while inside the theater, but it is not required. See StageCoach Theatre’s complete COVID protocols online
Heart of the Mummy: A Magpie Sisters Radio Play Mystery
Written and Directed by R. Aaron Thompson
Produced by Jerri Wiseman
Sound Design: Terry Smith and R. Aaron Thompson
Catering by Pure Perfection
Jenny Sterling: Stephanie Swift
Rachel Silver: Tierney Thompson(understudying Cassandra Redding)
Victor Knight: Darius Fraser