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Let’s Review: The Grift keeps audience sleuths on their toes

Audience participation is key in The Grift.
Audience participation is key in The Grift.
/ Jim Carmody

Anyone who enjoys solving a mystery with others will want to join La Jolla Playhouse’s immersive theater presentation, “The Grift” at the beautiful, historic Lafayette Hotel in North Park.

Written and directed by Tom Salamon, the interactive performance accommodates 50 audience members and requires some walking and climbing stairs.

It goes like this: Attendees are separated into groups by colored armbands and a few are given a special one with a key attached. Each group also receives five boxes that match their armband color. At each stop along the journey are clues to the combination of the lock on the box. Inside are more clues to help understand what went on in that particular spot.

The Narrator (Matt Thompson) provides information about the history of the Lafayette back in the 1940s, when stars like Bob Hope were frequent visitors.

Then the group meets Ben (Jim Chovick), a resident at the hotel from the time he was born, who has led a mysterious life there, watching all the comings and goings, and who now wants help from the groups to execute one giant con.

In turn, relatives of people who worked at the hotel years ago are eager to help the groups uncover the cons that have already happened in the hotel including: The Pig in a Poke, The Glim-Dropper, The Money Swap, The High-Yield Investment, Email Fraud and The Round-The-Corner.

The adventures take place in several areas of the hotel. The Lifeguard’s Grandson (Scott Nickley) is a fast-talking hipster who helps the group solve the first mystery. Then it’s on to the lobby where the Bellhop’s Grandson (Chris O’Bryon) demonstrates how the Money Drop is pulled off.

Groups will venture into a room where the Nanny’s Great-Granddaughter (Dana Lau) wants to avenge deeds done to her granny in a financial deal with Chicago Joe (Bernard X. Kopsho) when she worked at the hotel.

Being part of a group you might not know is really fun when everyone puts their heads together to come up with ideas, using their puzzle-solving skills. Crime solvers are also treated to a beverage and a tasty treat.

IF YOU GO: ‘The Grift’ plays 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 6 and 8:30 p.m. Friday; 3, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday; and 6 p.m. Sunday through March 22 at the Lafayette Hotel, 2223 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park. Tickets from $40 at (858) 550-1010. lajollaplayhouse.org