Zoinks, Scoob!

Murder Mystery Machine at the Funhouse

Ah, autumn—the time of year when our collective thoughts turn to…horror? Whether you’re a horror nut or a theater nerd, look no further than the upcoming Murder Mystery Machine production at Funhouse Lounge.

Murder Mystery Machine, a Funhouse Lounge original, is a fully improvised slasher film combining the tropes and clichés of Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the zany, more innocent antics of the classic Scooby Doo cartoons. Actors will take a small number of suggestions from the audience, but otherwise will be improvising the entire time.

Owner Andy Barrett had been toying with the concept of an improvised Scooby Doo parody for some time. Several years ago, while performing in an improv troupe specializing in slasher-themed pieces, Barrett decided to create a mashup of the two.

“I’m always looking for angles,” Barrett said about his penchant for combining disparate but familiar ideas or turning old clichés on their head to create new shows.

Barrett spoke of the unique experience of each performance. Drawing from a core group of longtime Funhouse players, joined by actors and performers from other parts of the Portland theater scene, each show will feature a different cast. “If you see the show three times, you’ll see three different casts and three different stories,” Barrett said.

People can also expect audience participation, meta-commentary, intentional character and scene breaks for laughs and a generally free-wheeling and loose feel. In addition to the live performances, the Funhouse has odd and unique visual art on display. Regarding the aptly named Clown Room, one has to see it to believe it.

Specific details for Murder Mystery Machine remain secret, but Barrett promises attendees can expect “a certain atmosphere with real horror,” likely meaning that any costuming, special effects, fake gore or staged violence will have an element of sinister realism, as well as fun kitsch. Be forewarned.

The cast list and casting for each night remain under wraps until the production opens, but a constantly changing roster of players guarantees a fresh and zany new take on the starting premise of each performance.

The Funhouse Lounge is more than just this show. “We’re looking to create theater experiences you can’t get anywhere else in Portland,” Barrett said. Other Funhouse productions include musical parodies of Evil Dead, Die Hard, and the currently-running Back to the Future, as well as stand-up comedy, burlesque shows, Dom-Prov (billed as “improv with a safe word”) and more. “People might come in for Die Hard: The Musical expecting it to be cool, kitschy and weird, but leave feeling blown away by the quality of the acting and the songwriting. You’re going to get more than you expected.”

Never before have those meddling kids encountered a mystery quite like this. Zoinks!

Funhouse Lounge
2432 SE 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214
Murder Mystery Machine runs from Oct. 4–Oct. 27