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Bill Schnell, playing Laverne Chokery, is murdered in the first scene of “Mayhem and Murder at Manchester Manor.”

It's no mystery how Suzie Hansen keeps writing hit murder mysteries for Absolute Theatre.

"I love to write and I've always loved mysteries," said Hansen. "I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan."

Hansen's latest Absolute mystery, "Mayhem & Murder at Manchester Manor," will be presented Dec. 28 and 29 in the lobby at Rochester Civic Theatre. The play, which will be presented in a cabaret setting, is a fundraiser for Absolute.

The play, a version of which was presented in October at the Plummer House, has been tweaked a bit for the upcoming performances. The format's the same, though: Audiences will still be given some clues and asked to solve the mystery.

"Agatha Christie always had a red herring, which is key," Hansen said. "You can lead people astray for a while."

At the start of the performance, the audience is given information about the setup and a few hints. They're encouraged to ask questions. "There's a fine line" between being too easy and too challenging to solve the mystery, Hansen said.

Besides, this is intended to be a fun experience, rather than a dark, scary mystery.

"If it's light and fun, and still has a mystery, you have a winning combination," Hansen said. "Then you layer on having all of your friends there and getting them all dressed up (in costumes)."

Audiences seem to love it. The mysteries have been a success at raising funds for local organizations such as the Elder Network and the Boys & Girls Club. "I think there's a niche for them," Hansen said.

Now, Absolute, which launched a year ago, will be the recipient. The company currently has four plays in rehearsal and preparation.

"We are busy and loving it," Hansen said.

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Life Reporter

Tom covers primarily arts and entertainment for the Post Bulletin and 507 Magazine. He also often writes feature stories about local history. He is a native of Milwaukee, WI, and enjoys reading and traveling.