Caper brings in crowd

Published 8:12 am Saturday, March 13, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- With their first ever dinner theater production on Thursday night, the Riverfront Cafe continues to provide Niles residents with a consistent source of cultural events.
The performance of the dinner mystery titled "The Chicago Caper" marked the second production from the newly revived Four Flags Players.
The idea for the show was hatched only two weeks ago when the Niles Downtown Development Authority received a call from Maax-Aker, a Plymouth, Ind., company, inquiring about a murder mystery train in Niles.
The company was training 15 employees from around the country and was looking for an entertaining evening for their trainees.
The murder mystery train they were looking for apparently took place in Paw Paw, but Lisa Croteau and Todd Wakevainen of the Niles Downtown Development Authority devised a plan that could accommodate them here in Niles.
Wakevainen, who is also responsible for organizing the Four Flags Players, said, "We are in the business of getting people downtown and thought maybe we should do something."
The plan was for a wine tasting at the Stein and Vine, followed by a mystery dinner theater at Riverfront Cafe.
Wakevainen said the group from Plymouth had a great time spending an evening in downtown Niles.
The Four Flags Players had two weeks to pull off the production, which they adapted from a dinner party game.
Wakevainen was very pleased with the results and hopes dinner theater can become a regular event in Niles.
Tammy Watson, co-owner of the Riverfront Cafe, said the area of the restaurant where the event took place was completely full with 78 people in attendance.
She said most of the seats were reserved very early on through positive word of mouth, before they ever publicly announced the event.
The Four Flags Players' first staged event, a Valentine's Day reader's theater production of "Love Letters" by Todd Wakevainen and Gloria Cooper, caused a similar reaction among the the Niles community.
There was so much interest sparked by the their first production that the Riverfront Cafe has scheduled an encore performance of "Love Letters" on March 25 at 7 p.m.
Watson said holding cultural events was one of the original plans for the Riverfront Cafe when they opened in 2003.
Watson would like to see both reader's theater and dinner theater become monthly events at the cafe in the future.
In addition to providing an outlet for theater, the Riverfront Cafe houses an art gallery upstairs that changes artwork on a monthly basis.
They also feature music on Saturday and Wednesday nights and have an open mic night on Tuesdays.