John Gibson claims he started his business because he hated commuting.
The fact is the high-concept whodunit honcho has probably racked up more miles than any commuter except, perhaps, an international airline pilot, with his far-flung theatrical empire.
His 60-member troupe of Gibson House Mystery players, regularly travels around the Bay Area (next local stop at Sunol Valley Golf Club on June 1) and occasionally take their humor-charged sleuthing out of state or on tour.
Since starting in 1993 at Michelle's restaurant in Santa Rosa, where they performed Friday and Saturday nights and Gibson tired of commuting, the company has been headquartered in several locations -- they were in Gina's in Benicia every weekend for six months and in a paddle wheel boat out of Vallejo.
"Then the boat moved to Long Beach, and we moved to the Pleasanton Hotel toward the end of '98." He says. "We home-based there for 12 years, which is a long time. Now, we perform regularly throughout Northern California."
The company has about 20 shows on its available repertoire, most written by Gibson or one of his performers.
"Murder at the KO Corral," the show that will be performed in Sunol (and several other locations in June) was written by longtime troupe member James Koponen, his second after "Murder in Space."
From the titles, alone, it's obvious the mysteries aren't designed for ponderous inspection and discussion. The idea here is for the mystery to be solved over dinner by teams of sleuths -- usually the people at each table.
"Good food is the key to a good show," said Gibson, who began his performing career as an actor, most noted as Shelly "The Machine" Levene, for which he won a Shellie Award.
He still performs with his troupe, and invites experienced performers with a flair for comedy and improvisation to be part of the company. The shows are scripted, but spontaneity is encouraged if something comes up that aches to be mocked or commented upon. The only rule is no giving false clues (and probably not stealing a lot of time to do your own shtick).
Audience members are invited to take part in the murder investigation scene, but involvement isn't required. The idea is to give the guests a good time and encourage them to pay attention to the clues, which drop like winter rain as the show unfolds.
Mostly, they come from heated comments between the characters who were involved in one way or another with the murder. The murder, or two, happens offstage, but the victim manages to stumble into the dining room and die there.
The first-, second- and third-place teams get a prize.
Since the Sunol play involves dirty doin's in the Wild West, guests are encouraged to dress as Old West characters to add to the atmosphere.
Seating for the dinner and show begins at 7:15 p.m. in the Sunol Valley Golf Club, 6900 Mission Road, Sunol. The dinner comes in three courses, with clues dropped during the meal. Tickets cost $59 per person, and can be reserved at 925- 862-2408 or www.SunolValley.com.
IT'S DOGGIE NIGHT tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Danville.
Those proficient or not in the fine art of dog walking will gather in front of Molly's Pup-purr-ee, 425 Hartz Ave., where they will receive maps and follow a trail of treats around cooperating merchants.
There will also be a pet fair at which owners can learn about various pet-friendly businesses in the area. The event happens rain or shine.
"AMERICAN IDOL" FINALIST JOSH GRACIN performs Thursday in Pleasanton's Firehouse Arts Center.
His performance in the center at 444 Railroad Ave will feature hit tunes from his 2004 gold album, which featured five top-five singles. He'll also perform songs from his new album, "Redemption."
Gracin, from Michigan, grew up on R&B and Motown, but when he heard Garth Brooks on country radio, he knew what he wanted to do.
Tickets to his concert cost $20, $25 and $30. Tickets may reserved at 925-931-4848 or up to three hours before the show at www.firehousearts.org.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.