Category Archives: Performances

“Ruined” in Tucson: Aug 25 – Sept 17

The Comedy Playhouse and School (website, Facebook) in Tucson, Arizona is the latest company to produce You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! Performance times and ticket information are at

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Posted by on August 5, 2017 in Performances


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The next “Ruined” – April 2015, San Antonio

San Antonio’s Rose Theatre Company (website, Facebook) is the next company to produce You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! In a story in the San Antonio Express-News (‘You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery’ gets SA debut), Rose co-owner Chris Manley, who is also in the cast, said “Whenever I produce a show, I’m in the mindset of, ‘I want to do a show I want to see.’ This is something I want to see.” The production is directed by Matthew Byron Cassi and will apply the fight choreography experience of cast members Joseph Travis Urick (The Detective) and Morgan Clyde (The Narrator) to showcase more combat than the previous productions.

Below is the poster for the Rose production and a photo taken by Erin Polewski that accompanies the Express-News story. The Facebook event is here.

This is the first production of Ruined to take place after the “Free Sherlock” legal decision that ruled Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are characters in the public domain. That decision means we don’t have to be concerned about referring to Sherlock Holmes in descriptions of the play. It also means that there is a diminished imperative for referring to the investigators as only The Detective and The Doctor. Nonetheless we won’t be rewriting the play to give the characters their “true” names, as that would be, well, less funny.

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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Performances


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“Ruined” – the next generation

The first organization to produce You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! after Mercury Players Theatre was the East Side Players of Madison East High School. Drama Director and Ruined cast member Paul Milisch directed a one-act version of the play for East’s entry in the Wisconsin High School Forensics Association’s State Theatre Festival. The production’s public debut was Dec 8 – 10 as part of  “An Eastside Night of Mystery.”

I attended a Saturday afternoon performance and took the following photos. Some familiar props, including the giant magnifying glass and Von Evilton’s device, were part of the production. Alterations from the previous production included dual narrators, an astounding red wig for Von Evilton, and a prodigious bustle for Katherine, who was renamed Katherine Booty-Heaving. And there were T-shirts for sale!

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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Performances


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Quotes about the summer 2011 production


The top theater production of the past year was home-grown, a zany audience-participation Steampunk mystery that sprouted from the 24-hour Blitz playwriting challenge put on annually by the Mercury Players.

Isthmus Annual Manual, where readers voted Ruined #1 Favorite Theater Production


The first day of FringeNYC and I am treated to this lively, funny and well turned out comedy…Every member of this ensemble is sparkling and on their toes.

Pamela Butler,

A show…that puts two of America’s favorite guilty pleasures together; a comedic murder mystery and a choose-your-own adventure book! The result is nothing short of a good time!

Spencer Howard, Artsy Fartsy Show “Art To Do” Blog

This piece is interesting in part because of the comedy interwoven into the structure (a fun mix of parody and literary criticism), but more importantly the methodologies of how the story is told (using audience participation) are worth going to the play by themselvesYou’ve Ruined A Perfectly Good Mystery! is truly a good example of the type of theatre that the New York International Fringe Festival exposes to a larger audience.

Stephen Tortora-Lee, The Happiest Medium

This parody of the detective story, most specifically those about Sherlock Holmes, has a highly literate and often very funny script by Christian Neuhaus and Rick Stemm. But what really makes the play a success is Sam D. White’s superb direction and his talented cast.

Paulanne Simmons, CurtainUp

Curtain call at the final FringeNYC performance

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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Performances, Publicity


Pleasant surprises from the opening performances

Third of three posts I originally wrote for

I was entertained immensely by the first two performances of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery, a play I wrote with Rick Stemm that’s appearing at MercLab until the 25th. It was a thrill to see such exemplary work in the actors’ physical humor and character-driven comedy, and in the steampunk-influenced set design by Morgan Boland and costume design by Sydney Krieger. I had been to rehearsals last month and so was familiar with some of the unscripted bits director Sam White and the cast introduced, but there were several bits that were new for me and some overall things I wasn’t expecting but was nonetheless happy with.

The audience is essentially another character. The audience makes choices and participates in the other interactions we wrote into the script of course, but the connection between the audience, the Narrator (Jamie England), the Detective (Christopher Younggren), and the Doctor (Matthew A. Schrader) is much more tangible than I was expecting. It’s especially noticeable with the Detective, who doesn’t solicit choices like the Narrator but does somewhat antagonize the audience. Given this role for the audience, I sometimes wonder if the Detective is truly the protagonist or if the Doctor, who has to not only navigate the story’s challenges but convince the Detective to take part in the play and give the audience a satisfying show, is a sort of covert protagonist.

Christopher Younggren and Matt Schrader had some entertaining ad-libs in response to the audience the two nights I was there. Rick was in the front row those nights and at one point in the opening performance the Detective asked him something like “Are you proud of that?” in relation to some absurd line. The second night, when the Detective said something to elicit an audience “awww,” he said to Rick “Awww – you wrote it!”

The actors’ gratitude was as fulfilling as the audience’s responses. I expected that the most enriching part of this process would be hearing the audience laughing at funny lines and performances. But being thanked in person and in the program by the actors, hearing how much joy they were getting from the script, and seeing them develop friendships through their work on something I helped create were delightful as well. I’d seen all of the actors in other plays and was happy I could provide something they could have fun with and use to show talents they might not normally have a chance to.

The stage manager introduced the play. Like she did as the director of Rick’s and my Blitz Smackdown play, Bonnie Balke had some excellent aesthetic and practical ideas for the production of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery. An example of the latter was using the program to identify the choices people would be called on to make over the course of the story. Given her contributions, how this play explicitly acknowledges that it is a play, and the challenge of literally not knowing what’s happening at each performance, I like the fact that our stage manager is the first person the audience hears from.

There is room for (relative) subtlety in the play. The Detective makes a crack near the end about being past the point of subtlety but there were comparatively understated moments (compared to things like a mime fight or a limerick contest, that is) that got good reactions. I’m thinking particularly of some amusing non-verbal communications from Daniel Torres-Rangel with respect to two props he carried in the first act, or the audience-wide sympathy Veronica Raulin got with a disappointed facial expression in the second act.

This production would get 13 Bartie nominations if it was eligible. Previously I thought 12 nominations, but it would also be a contender in the “Best Stage Kiss” category for an unscripted kiss I saw on the September 10 performance. It might even be eligible for “Most Thought Provoking Production,” as in “How is it possible that such a brilliant assembly of talent can exist?” This play has an excellent ensemble cast and outstanding entrances, sound design (Colin Woolston), lighting design (Spike Garrett), portrayals of non-homo sapiens, set design, costume design, belly laughs, poster design (Al Hart), and funny performances by actors/actresses. It’s a great comedy and could probably inspire its audiences to pursue a career in theater.

I give a pretty decent interview. These actually occurred prior to opening weekend. I’m not exactly known for being talkative but nonetheless managed to get some laughs in interviews with Alan Talaga and the Wisconsin Guys.

I’m warning up to the idea of an Aerosmith song appearing in a Victorian adventure spoof. No elaboration needed.


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