On May 8, 1945, the Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, officially announced the end of World War II in Germany. In a speech to his nation, he said, “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing but there is much hard work ahead.” That speech set the stage for the play “A Brief Period of Rejoicing” at the Historic Beaver Dam Lodge on, coincidentally, May 8, 2012.
To celebrate the end of the war in Europe, a group of neighbors get together for a dinner party where one of the guests is found murdered. It seems everyone has a motive for the murder. The clever mystery starts with actors who play brief scripted scenes. They take a break following the discovery of the murder and mingle among the audience fielding questions.
In addition to the opening scene, the audience is provided with character biographies and histories so they can start formulating a suspect and possible motivations in order to solve the murder. The actors follow the opening script and then improvise with the audience.
Directed by the versatile and always fascinating Teri Nehrenz, the one night play opened to a sold-out crowd. As the actors disclosed hints of love triangles, black marketing, and love-hate relationships, the audience began to play close attention so as not to miss an important clue. The energy in the room was obvious as some audience members quickly picked a prime suspect.
During the break the audience enthusiastically peppered the actors with questions trying to wrestle an admission of guilt from them. Saving the “who dunnit” until the last act, no vital information was given out but plenty of hints were given to build up even more speculation.
Dinner was served and the guests debated back and forth throughout the meal about the guilt or innocence of suspects. Each guest was invited to submit their choice of a murder suspect and the reason for the crime to the director in order to win a prize after the play ended.
The final act began with actors eliminating themselves, one by one, as the prime suspect. As they did so, moans were heard from the audience as their pick of the culprit turned out to be wrong. Finally, as a young woman confesses to having an affair with the victim, her fiancée admits that he is the killer seeking revenge for the affair.
The submitted votes were tallied and Donna Maupin of Mesquite was chosen as the grand prize winner who correctly identified the killer and the reason for the murder. She won a season pass to the Mesquite Community Theater.
Nehrenz, playing the part of a stressed out widow trying to make in through war time, did an admirable job of directing and acting in the play. Due to a last minute change, she had to also direct another play, Love Letters, scheduled for the end of the week at the community theater. Her cast of novice actors and actresses did an good job of being able to stump the majority of the audience who picked the wrong suspect. Following the last act, to keep the audience engaged, World War 2 trivia questions were thrown out to the audience who were generally successful in finding the right answers.
The success of Nehrenz's play was a hint of the popularity of the dinner theater concept. Her ability as a long time actress, set designer and capable director kept the play moving, stimulating and fun, and left the audience wanting to go to the next play scheduled at the community theater.