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February 15, 2014

Sooner’s murder mystery show rated R for redneck

NORMAN — Sometimes the pearls of wisdom come in unlikely places — from children, parents and friends, even politicians. An Oklahoma City councilman once told me that although he wasn’t moved to commit murder, he often read the morning’s obituaries and smiled.

The saying wasn’t original but the line has stuck with me through the years. Much like the line delivered by trailer park trash queen Tess Doolin (played by Kathy Nees) in her most collective jab at the Sooner Theatre Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre audience Thursday night. “Even dead, I’m better than all of you all.”

That was just one line of many that turned the audience against Tess from the show’s beginning. You guessed it — she dies a mysterious death and the audience has the job of figuring out the killer in “Death in a DoubleWide,” written by city parks planner and perennially frustrated thespian James Briggs. Director was Jody White. Terri Nevin Hesselroth served as choreographer. It’s rated “R” for language and innuendo, but mostly R for redneck.

The annual murder mystery supporting the Sooner Theatre programs opened Thursday and continues tonight at The Railhouse, 102 W. Eufaula. Tickets to the event are $75 each or $600 for a table of eight.

It’s community theater at its best. During breaks on stage, the cast works the room for tips (for the Sooner, of course) in exchange for clues. This year’s cast includes some regular performers, but there’s a handful of first-timers testing the stage and the country music microphone. At the end of the evening, those audience members who have correctly guessed the killer’s identity are entered into a drawing to win a pair of season tickets to the Sooner’s theatrical season, Sooner Stage Presents.

Newcomer Nees plays the abrasive redneck, wrongly drawing disability and playing the lottery while her faithful-as-a-birddog husband Harvey (Steven White) works three-and-a-half jobs to support her. Disabled or not, she manages to belt out “Redneck Woman,” while her Christmas lights twinkle on the doublewide in the background.

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