Do you think you have what it takes to be a detective? You can find out in the nicely realized interactive murder mystery The Ryan Case 1873, which starts out at Fontana’s Chandelier Room before teams of 8-10 amateur sleuths hit the streets of the Lower East Side in search of answers.
We are given the mission by Chief Inspector Thomas F. Byrnes (J.R McKarthy) who gives us the known facts about the crime. Then each team is armed with a map, a few clues, and (hopefully) a desire to crack the case, which involves a pair of slain siblings, and is based upon a real unsolved 19th-century murder. The actors playing the suspects are scattered around neighboring streets, and perform not only for the paying customers of the show, but also curious onlookers.
Your enjoyment of the experience will have a lot to do with the other people in your group and how seriously (or not) they take the task of solving the crime. But regardless, you have to admire the level of commitment of the performers in this open-air drama, who wander about in period costume (designed by La Marca Del Indio), and improvise in character.
Among the shady individuals you’re likely to meet are recent immigrant Yosef (played by the production’s writer and director, Carlo D’Amore), the murder victims’ brother Benjamin (Walter DeForest), a prostitute (Caley Vickerman), a landlord and his wife (Anthony P. Salleri, Alena Acker), and even a cop who has been thrown off of the case (Adam Murphy). All of the actors acquit themselves quite well, with D’Amore worth singling out for the intensity and subtle humor he brings to his role.
The performance ends up back at Fontana’s where the groups convene, the suspects line up, and each team has the opportunity to solve the crime. It’s only then that you really see how well-crafted the experience is, as all of the necessary clues (as well as some red herrings) were introduced by the suspects in the earlier encounters on the street, and some critical details can be brought about through some additional questioning.