Atlantic City —
The fixed beam of light on top of the historic Absecon Lighthouse may well have been signaling with its sudden flashes of light to warn Rumrunners during the Prohibition Era.
The new mystery performance, "Lighthouse Empire - The Rumrunners," recently performed at the Absecon Lighthouse, was an interactive murder mystery. The audience was given questionnaires, on which they had to answer questions pertaining to the play, as well as guessing the identity of the murderer.
"Lighthouse Empire - The Rumrunners" gives an insight into the stormy era of the infamous Nucky Johnson, the supreme boss of illegal trafficking of 'booze" and other illicit activities, fascinated people who didn't see the seamy side. Murder, prostitution and blackmail were the other products of the so-called "glamorous" era.
Written by James T. Murtha, who also plays the lead, the play is a spoof of all "who done its," which keep the audience in suspense, while making fun of the drama on stage.
Responding to subtle hints from the actors, the audience, which was sitting close to the stage, got involved in the proceedings.
The plot of "Lighthouse Empire" revolves around the impending necessity to close the lighthouse because of lack of funding.
The lighthouse owner, played by Bill Edwards, the Lighthouse keeper (James Murtha) and his wife (Gretchen Murtha) get involved with a gangster (Michael Flynn,) and his "moll" (Stephanie Carr) who make them an offer they can't refuse.
The $100,000, a fortune in those times, would enable them to keep the lighthouse open. In return, the beacon of the lighthouse would warn the rumrunners of impending police raids.
The offer is accepted and that's when things become complicated. The reality is that people are greedy and betray each other for money. The greed goes so far that murder ensues.
The third act starts with a lifeless body sprawled across the stage. No one knows how the body got there because, during intermission, the audience is invited to climb the 228 steps to the top of the Lighthouse. With several "landing" areas for resting, everybody who started out reached the top.
It was a rainy night but, even with the clouds hanging low, one could see the lights from far away. It was easy to understand how the lighthouse's beacon of light helped the ships that were lost in the fog.
After coming back from the climb, the audience had the task of identifying the murderer. The victim is the gangster and everyone involved stands to gain by his demise. Who committed the gruesome act? That is something the audience must figure out.
It's all in fun and there is frequent laughter. At the end, the murderer is carted away, as is the body of the gangster, "Hal Capone," Al's second cousin, "once removed."
"Lighthouse Empire - The Rumrunners" is the latest in a series of fundraisers which are of interest to adults and children alike. These have included "Ghost Haunting Climbs" (in one of which the Jersey Devil was supposed to be sighted), movie nights, golfing fundraisers, and "Kids Light up the Arts," to promote visual and performing arts in children.
The building of the Absecon Lighthouse, which is the tallest in New Jersey and the third tallest in the nation, was completed in 1856 and its first lighting occurred in 1857, when a kerosene lit flame could be seen 19.5 nautical miles out to sea.
The Absecon Lighthouse is located at the corner of Pacific and Rhode Island avenues in Atlantic City. The area is well lit and parking is available. It is open Thursday to Monday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through June; and daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July and August. For more information call (609) 449-1360.