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'Just Desserts' in Brooten 'sinfully delicious'

Dinner ... desserts... dimwittedness... drama... and detective work make for a "deliciously delightful" evening during the upcoming murder mystery at John O's Dinner Theatre in Brooten.

"Just Desserts" by Craig Sodaro is a lively mystery play revolving around the untimely death of Judge Reginald P. Cogsworth who perished while judging an annual charity bakeoff. The play is interactive and the audience must deduce which of the three talented ladies who entered the contest poisoned the judge, and what their motive was.

Was it the ditzy and garishly dressed Lucy "Scooter" Bright, the proud and haughty Margaret Mason, or the frumpy, cat-loving librarian Edna Mae Carter?

The old saying says, "You are what you eat." Perhaps that will hold true with this production of "Just Desserts" as well. Each of the three suspects has entered a sinfully delicious dessert into the annual charity bakeoff and each of the desserts represents these three women flawlessly.

Mrs. Margaret Mason entered a chocolate torte, which is as rich and full of flavor and attitude as she is. The raspberry tart was entered in by Lucy "Scooter" Bright, who is as buxom and flirtatious as the raspberries in her dessert. Finally, the frumpy and depressing Edna Mae Carter entered a Depression-era cake which she entitled "Frugal Cake!" Since none of the characters in the play actually taste their own desserts during the course of the evening; it might be better off stated that: "You are what you bake!"

The characters are brought to life superbly by a wonderful cast of people who are all local talents from the Belgrade, Brooten and Benson areas. Under the magnificent direction of Brooten native Larry Syverson, this group of talented actors and actresses truly brings this show to life. This is Larry's directing debut at John O's. He pulled together an amazing cast with wonderful lighting and sound, along with a straightforward set that allows the audience to be enveloped and engrossed completely in this fast-paced murder mystery. A job well done!

Lynda Swinney must have been channeling the spirit of the television crime sleuth Jessica Fletcher when she was developing the character of Miss Peabody. She gets the audience involved in the solving of the crime and her questioning of the suspects really gets the audience to think. Lynda is normally attuned to playing comedic characters, but her ability to play the prim retired school teacher really makes her shine.

Donning a blonde wig really allows Wanda Lee to bring out the true dimwittedness of her character Lucy "Scooter" Bright. She is definitely the clueless tart of the bunch. Wanda's theatrical experience really comes through; she develops a character and fully embodies it. Delightfully ditzy is the best way to describe Wanda in this role, but watch out for Scooter's dark sided past.

Barb Quade portrays Edna Mae Carter, a sour-faced librarian who is cat obsessed. Barb flawlessly captured the loneliness, sorrow and depression of a woman done wrong in several ways. Barb's character steals the show with her incessant wailing over her dead cat Moo-Moo.

The audience cannot help but laugh -- almost right in Barb's face -- at the overwhelming affection she shows for this dead cat!

Kristin Berry-Steffensen is newer to acting than her other cohorts on stage, but don't count her out. She really brings out the hoity-toity attitude of Mrs. Margaret Mason. Being a rich society woman doesn't mean that Mrs. Mason hasn't had her fair share of run-ins with the law. I guess it is difficult to keep the speed of a Jaguar in control.

Kristin carries herself very well on stage. She captured the "I can do nothing wrong" attitude and you will definitely not take any pity upon her for the "pain she must endure."

Finally, Judge Cogsworth is a man you love to hate -- especially if you are a dessert lover. David Swinney portrays this dessert despising curmudgeon to a tee. He believably plays the judge's hatred of all types of desserts be it a torte, a tart, a cake or ... a woman! His straight-laced, attitude filled portrayal of the judge allows the audience to believe that he received his "Just Desserts."

John O's is the ideal place to hold a theatrical production. Not only is the performance on stage appealing to the eyes and the ears, but your taste buds are going to be in for a treat as well. The kitchen staff at John O's will be preparing your choice of two delicious dinners -- a New York Strip that is juicy and cooked to perfection or a pan-seared walleye that almost melts in your mouth. Not only are the dinners delicious, but John O's very own in-house baker, Julie Counter, has created the three suspects' desserts flawlessly.

So come on out to John O's Dinner Theatre in Brooten for drama and dinner that are sinfully delicious and "Just Desserts" -- to die for!

T.M. Berg is from the St Cloud area and has been involved in theater since high school. He attended St John's University and earned a degree in theatrical production and is working on writing his own screenplay.