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Village Arts presents ‘Last Call at Chez Mort

By Staff | Aug 22, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Cast members argue over the identity of Sweet Sue’s murderer. Left to right are: Amber Selensky, as Lelu, James Maertens as bodyguard, Chad Hager as Big Suit Stu, Bryce Berginski as Mack the stage manager, Trista Busche as Detective Constantine and Jacob Berginski as Jean-Paul the club manager.

The auditorium at Rugby’s Village Arts Center transformed for a night into a 1940s supper club, with men in zoot suits and women in shoulder-padded dresses dining at tables and performing onstage.

“Last Call at Chez Mort,” a dinner theater murder mystery, takes place at a World War II-era nightclub and features all the usual suspects: a grouchy stage manager, a mob boss, his bodyguard, who carries axes with him and a lounge singer jealous of the victim.

Added to the list of suspicious characters are the nervous club manager, who hails from Paris and has a checkered past, a piano player with little patience for the shrill-voiced victim and a newspaper reporter who may not be who she seems.

At the center of the intrigue is Sue, or Sweet Sue as Big Suit Stu, her mob boss boyfriend calls her. Sue aspires to sing at Chez Mort, but, according to Lelu, the performer Sue replaced, “screeches like a banshee.”

Sue throws sheet music into the air and tells the pianist to play in the wrong musical key, provoking eye rolls and angry quips from the frustrated musician, played by Andria Hart.

After Sue, played by Katelyn Duchscher, clutches the microphone to deliver an ear-splitting performance, she emits an even louder shriek and falls dead.

Big Suit Stu, played by Chad Hager, forbids stage manager Mack, played by Bryce Berginski, and club owner Jean-Paul, played by Jacob Berginski, to call the police. Stu’s bodyguard, James Maertens, waves a hatchet to make sure everyone understands Stu’s warning.

Detective Constantine, played by Trista Busche, comes to the scene after a call from the piano player, determined to find out who rigged the microphone’s wiring to turn it into a deadly weapon.

Pouty Lelu, played by Amber Selensky, and Smitty, the newspaper reporter,played by Diane Arnstein, round out the cast.

Guests at the fundraiser murder mystery dined before the show on fettuccine Alfredo with steak tips, bruschetta and green salad.

A dessert auction followed during the show’s intermission, with creations such as Russian honey torte and French silk pie fetching winning bids of as much as $600 each.

The event featured a prize basket awarded to audience member Don Jelsing, whose name was drawn from a bag of names identifying the murderer.

Two couples from the audience, Matt Wenger and Shannon Welk, and Kevin and Jodie Kirchofner, won prizes for their authentic 1940s attire, complete with men’s fedoras and victory roll hairstyles for the women.

Village Arts, Inc. Director Bonnie Berginski gave thanks to the many people who pulled the dinner theater performance together.

“This has been a tough year,” Berginski said, noting the production had been originally scheduled for April. Like many other community activities across the state and nation, the play was postponed until guidelines from the North Dakota Department of Health allowed for public gatherings.

“Thank you everyone for coming. Thanks to everyone who baked for us. That was wonderful,” Berginski added. “I think everybody’s having a good time and I thank 3rd Street Station for supplying the alcohol.”

Berginski also gave thanks to Stephanie Halvorson, owner of Balta Bar, who catered the meal, “and all of our actors who volunteered their hours to practice.”

“There are a few others to thank,” Berginski added, offering thanks to her husband, Greg, “who hung the curtains.” “He’s a jack of all trades volunteered by his wife,” Berginski smiled.

“We’ll look forward to something in the future and if you ever feel inclined to be onstage, let us know,” Berginski added. “We’d love to have you and we’d love to get something going.”

A nonprofit organization, Village Arts, Inc. may be found online at www.villageartsinc.com. Village Arts also has a Facebook page. More information is available at (701) 208-1448.

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