By Debbie Stauffer

Special to the Live Wire, and contributing writer

Manchester Community College’s “Mission Improv-able” Comedy Troupe presented their version of what can happen at a Georgia peach pie-baking contest when winning is a life and death matter at its annual Murder Mystery Dinner Theater.

Kaarina Finegan-LaBella as one of the many characters involved.  Photo credit goes to Nelson Ruiz of ICE Radio

Kaarina Finegan-LaBella reigning pie champion and advisor of the Drama Club. Photo credit goes to Nelson Ruiz of ICE Radio

MCC’s ICE Radio hosted the 4th annual event in the Culinary Arts Center Oct. 28. The show, titled “In the Peach of the Night,” featured a cast of MCC’s administrators and faculty. The performance accompanied a themed Southern barbecue dinner prepared by 10 students from MCC’s Catering Management class. The menu featured pulled pork, grits and collard greens; dessert, of course, was peach pie.

Professor Albert Kim as one of the many characters involved.  Photo credit goes to Nelson Ruiz of ICE Radio

Professor Albert Kim, Master of Ceremonies and bard of the mystery. Photo credit goes to Nelson Ruiz of ICE Radio

 The script is the creation of Albert Kim, who teaches communication at MCC. His hilarious role as Master of Ceremonies and world-famous detective “Chuck E. Chan” kept the dining audience laughing throughout the evening with one-liners and words of wisdom from Confucius.  Laughter was also abundant while other MCC faculty and staff, including English professor Kaarina Finegan-LaBella, Jason Scappaticci, coordinator of the Student and First Year Success Programs, and adjunct instructor Colleen Kim showed their improvisational skills. Finegan-LaBella, who is also the adviser to the MCC Drama Club, played the reigning peach pie champion “Tara Belle Sugarbaker,” possessor of a family recipe no one has been able to duplicate. Colleen Kim played “Piety Mae Winsome,” a mother of 12 home-schooled children who claimed her secret recipe is from “prayin’, readin’ the Good Book, and livin’holy.”  Scappaticci played the man everyone hated, “Carlton R. Kraekaheyd” and the eventual resident “dead person.”

 Other characters included a corrupt and powerful chief justice and the sole taste-tester for 19 years “Judge Hershel Skwurtz,” the lazy and bitter “Sheriff Bubba T. Gumpshon,” a has-been celebrity chef “Paula-Jimi Deane,” and the spoiled granddaughter of the judge, “Kay-Laurick Entayk.” In the past there have been MCC students in the performance but not this year. But Finegan-LaBella invited anyone with interest in future dinner theater performances to contact her or Albert Kim.

 The Grand Picnic Pavilion at the Georgia State Fair was the setting for this comedy “whodunit.” Sixty eight dinner guests were placed in Amateur Detective Solution Teams to collaborate thoughts and determine who killed “Kraekaheyd” and why. Teams were encouraged to ask questions similar to “modern day speed dating,” said Albert Kim. The guests were warned, “Trust no one, suspect everyone!”

Jason Scappaticci as one of the characters involved. Photo credit goes to Nelson Ruiz of ICE Radio

Jason Scappaticci, the unfortunate victim. Photo credit goes to Nelson Ruiz of ICE Radio

 Each character had a reason to want Kraekaheyd dead. This was the first time two judges were on hand to choose the winning pie and he was one of them. His presence was not wanted as he threatened to “blow the lid off this corrupt town.” The moment of truth arrived at the Blue Ribbon Banquet when the pie tasting and voting took place to find a winner of the grand prize of $10,000. But the event suddenly took a deadly turn when Kraekaheyd dropped to the chair dead from apparent cyanide poisoning. Who wanted Kraekaheyd dead the most?

 Many hints were provided, but only the “Good Book” knows! Chan announced who the murderer was and all the suspects slipped into the peach of the night.