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The Sound’s the Thing:
Audio Clues on Mystery Theatre

March 12th, 2021

In Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Conversation (1974) surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) becomes obsessed with a cryptic recording that he believes suggests a young couple is in danger. Similarly, in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981), sound engineer Jack Terri (John Travolta) investigates a mystery by listening to a recording made at the scene of a crime. And even master sleuth Sherlock Holmes demonstrates the importance of audio clues in the story “The Speckled Band” (1892), when a whistle emanating from a closed room leads him to the solution of one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-known mysteries.

In each one of these cases, investigators follow clues they cannot see, which brings us to the questions August LaFleur posed at the end of last week’s installment of Prime Stage Mystery Theatre: “What is the alternative to looking?” and “What does one do when one doesn’t see?”

The answers, as LaFleur says, “should be obvious.”

You can hear this week’s episode by clicking the player below or by accessing it and all past episodes via AppleAudibleDeezerLibsyn,  Spotify, or by going to the  podcasts page at  PrimeStage.com.

But listening isn’t the only way you can join the investigation. Each episode concludes with a prompt that invites listeners to submit suggestions and comments about the mystery via the contact tab at the Prime Stage website or through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The world is full of mysteries. Here’s one we can solve together.

Onward!

Nightmares and Mysteries:
Prime Stage Mystery Theatre – Season Two

February 23rd, 2021

Heard about the actor’s nightmare? It’s a variation of the dream in which you find yourself completely out of place and unprepared for a given situation. You know, like being in the produce section of a grocery store, standing behind a stack of vegetables and hoping no one notices your naked. Or perhaps it’s the covid-era dread of sitting in a crowded classroom and realizing you’ve left your mask at home.

In the actor’s nightmare, a performer stands clueless before a packed house, unable to remember a single line of dialogue.

The dream is so prevalent among actors that Christopher Durang devoted an entire play to it, fittingly titled The Actor’s Nightmare.

The premise also provides a central conflict in Season Two of the Prime Stage Mystery Theatre podcast, which returns February 25 and continues with new installments each Thursday in March. Titled “The Play’s the Thing,” this new story reunites the characters from Season One’s “A Knavish Piece of Mystery” and pushes them into a puzzle featuring a performer who goes missing on opening night. And yes, before it’s over, one of the characters will stand clueless in the footlights.

You can read more about the show at Tribe-Live or the Prime Stage website, where you’ll also find links to last season’s mystery. The podcast is free, made possible by support from listeners like you. If you like what you hear, consider helping to ensure future podcasts by becoming a patron. And please remember to rate, follow, and tell your friends about the show. Doing so increases our visibility and helps bring new eyes and ears to Prime Stage’s virtual season.

And keep in mind, since each PSMT episode ends with a question or prompt regarding the story’s mystery, you’re invited to chime in by leaving a comment at the Prime Stage website or Facebook page. Listener feedback played an exciting role in Season One, and we’re hoping to build on that spirit of interaction in Season Two.

Prime Stage Mystery Theatre is available just about anywhere you get your podcasts, including Apple, Audible, Deezer, Libsyn, and Spotify. Each installment runs about fifteen minutes, so you’ll be able to fit them in between trips to the produce section or crowded classroom.

Just remember to dress accordingly … and I’ll meet you there.

What’s Inside the Locked Room?
A Knavish Piece of Mystery – Act 3

October 15th, 2020

You might think that the best way to solve a locked-door mystery would be to open the room and see what’s inside. But what happens when what’s inside provides more questions than answers?

We’ll explore those possibilities today as Prime Stage Mystery Theatre’s podcast A Knavish Piece of Mystery enters its third week with a new episode that considers how the solutions we seek may not be solutions at all.

Also, we’ll take time at the beginning of the show to discuss suggestions for opening locked doors. Some practical, some extreme, and one or two that are maybe a little crazy — all in an effort to anticipate what our master sleuth August LaFleur might do as he attempts to solve the mystery of the sealed room.

You can listen in by clicking here or by using the embedded player at the bottom of this post.

If you’ve missed any of our previous episodes or if you’d like to get a refresher on what’s happened in the story so far, you can access the complete episode directory at the Prime Online podcast page. You’ll find that episode list here.

So get out your axes, hinge-pin pullers, and strips of door-hacking plastic as Mystery Theatre presents Act 3 of our locked-door who-done-it — a mystery in which we discover that the solutions we seek may not be solutions at all, and that the story’s knavish piece of mystery may be more puzzling than even a master sleuth can imagine.

Hit play. I’ll meet you there!

Countdown to Mystery: Zero Effect

September 29th, 2020

Some of the greatest detectives don’t work alone. Think of Holmes and Watson, Cagney and Lacey, Batman and Robin.

You get the idea.

Among the most interesting pairings are Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, from the series that the members of Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention) nominated as the “Best Mystery Series of the Century” in 2000. What sets Stout’s detective team apart from most others is that Wolfe is a morbidly obese recluse who never leaves his home, while Goodwin is a gregarious womanizer – a kind of Wolfe-avatar who goes out into the world to investigate the mysteries that the reclusive mastermind contemplates in solitude.

The contrasting images below: Nero Wolfe depicted in The American Magazine (1940) and Archie Goodwin, The Saturday Evening Post (1958).

The Wolfe-Goodwin team has been featured in a number of stage and screen adaptation over the years, most recently in A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001-02), the A&E television series starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton.

There have also been a few films that seem loosely inspired by Rex Stout’s pairing of opposites, and it’s of these – the under-rated Zero Effect (1998) – that I’d like to recommend today.

Written and directed by Jake Kasdan, whose father Lawrence Kasdan wrote the mystery Body Heat (1981), Zero Effect centers on reclusive detective Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) who solves a complicated mystery with the help of assistant Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller). Though not as well know as my previous recommendations (Sleuth, Deathtrap, Murder on the Orient Express, The Last of Shelia), the Zero Effect is worthy of rediscovery – both for the ingenuity of its mystery and its odd detective team.

Despite its relative obscurity, Zero Effect is available across most streaming platforms as well as on DVD and VHS. Sadly, no Blu-ray or 4K.

I have one more recommendation as we countdown to Prime Stage Theatre’s upcoming A Knavish Piece of Mystery. Look for it tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy Zero Effect.