Murder and money are always a good recipe for a dinner theater.
Now add a dash of New York Detective Daisy Doright, and the table is set for “Murder at the Polite Ladies Society.”
The Louisiana Voices of Women Theatre Company is premiering this play written by its founder and president, Aileen Hendricks, on Saturday at Ralph & Kacoo’s. Admission includes a three-course meal and cash bar, along with a little bit of audience participation.
“We won’t force people to participate,” says Hendricks, who also plays Doright. “We’ll be asking for four volunteers at the beginning of the show.”
The show starts at 6:30 p.m., with no late seating.
All orders will be taken before the play begins, because Daisy Doright doesn’t like being interrupted when she’s conducting an investigation. She’s the northerner investigating the hidden decadence of the very proper and very southern Polite Ladies Society, where hats and gloves are not optional.
“Daisy wears a hat, but she doesn’t wear gloves, because her gloves are to be worn only when she’s in full uniform,” Hendricks says.
Henricks is directing her play, which begins with the revelation that one of the Polite Ladies has stolen money collected during the organization’s fundraiser. Doright’s investigation widens from theft to murder as the play progresses.
“And there are a lot of surprises along the way,” Hendricks says. “We’ll ask four audience members to volunteer, and we’ll give each of them a script of what they’ll be saying. As the audience members take their different roles, they’ll be revealing secrets of the Polite Ladies Society.”
The characters are varied, including a psychic undertaker, a former “Victoria’s Temptation” model, a talkative reporter, a former frequenter of Bourbon Street and a lady from the bayou.
Act one will end as dinner is served, making way for act two, which begins with audience members writing down their guesses as to the murderer’s identity before actors resume the story.
Hendricks filled some roles through auditions but chose unsuspecting actors for others.
“I told Aileen that I wanted to help, but I didn’t think she’d want me in the play,” says Ella McCrary, who plays the reporter, Barbara Babbler. “I’ve never done anything like this, but Aileen has challenged me. I’m not anything like this Barbara person — I’m playing my older sister.”
McCrary’s “sister” comment sets off a round of laughter among her castmates, who can identify. Julie Richard, for instance, met Hendricks at a weekly reading of poetry and plays at the Main Library on Goodwood Boulevard.
“There are certain people that I see who I know will be great in roles,” Hendricks says. “I remembered Julie from the meeting, and I called her.”
Which is why Richard is now playing the character Mary Merry.
As for Faydra Thomas, she was a student in Hendricks’ theater classes at Southern University. Hendricks has since retired, but she maintains contact with her former students.
“It’s fun, because I get to play someone who is so outside of my character in this play,” Thomas says. “It’s been an amazing experience.”