“The Puzzler”

The Puzzler is a one-act, two-person play with minimal set. There is a short version and a longer version.

  • 1 male, 1 female
  • Run time: 20 – 40 minutes depending on the version

Blanch, a self-centered woman, has community service hours to perform for a drunk driving conviction and does so at a nursing home. She sees the easiest way of doing this is sitting with Weldon, one of the residence, and working on the puzzle with him. Weldon, was a mathematician with NASA before a brain tumor took away his ability to remember his past without the help of his stack of notebooks. Each morning, he gets up and reads the parts of his notebooks which might pertain to the day. This is analogous to a computer loading a program. The following excerpt gives a great idea about the path of the play:

Weldon: Imagine, Blanch, imagine you loved candy. But you can’t eat candy all day for every meal because it’s bad for you, no nutritional value, makes you fat, rots your teeth, and all the undesirable side-effects. Now, you get a brain tumor and when it’s removed, vegetables taste like candy. You eat green beans like they were a stick of licorice. A bowl of salad is like eating a bowl of cotton candy. Brussel Sprouts are like chocolate covered cherries.

Blanch: Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Weldon: It is wonderful, Blanch. It is wonderful. All my life, I’ve loved puzzles. All sorts of puzzles. Now, with what happened to my brain, the world’s a gigantic puzzle. Every morning, I wake up, excited about solving the puzzles this life gifts me with. Tying my shoes is an adventure. My daughter brought me Velcro shoes but I threw them away. There’s no mystery in Velcro shoes. I don’t have to worry about anything in life but solving puzzles. You’ll be coming for a week. You’re a new puzzle for me. I get to solve the puzzle of your unhappiness.

Full Version

This is the full version of the The Puzzler performed in July of 2021 at The Fat Cat Lounge in Smithville, Texas. This was done as a dinner theater piece with the a course of a four-course meal served between the five scenes. Jerry Winklemann played before the show, between scenes, and after the show. As you can tell from the audience’s reaction, they loved the format and the show. 

Shortened Version

The first production of this play was at Hyde Park’s Frontera Fest which had a twenty-five minute limit. The last scene is the main difference but a lot of dialog was removed to get under that limit. We finished in twenty-three minutes.  

This work is under copyright and production rights are required for performances. If you’re interested in this piece, we would love to work with you to get it on your stage. It works very well for restaurants who want to have a dinner theater. The set consists of a table and two chairs. To get an idea of the flow of the evening, below is a schedule used in one of the performances.

Head to the contact page and let’s get it started!

Production history

Fat Cat Lounge – July 2021

The dinner theater experiment was a great success at Rio Social House. We are now doing it with a four-course meal at The Fat Cat Lounge on Main St in Smithville, Texas. The music will be with Jerry Winkelmann. The actors are Tom Bettes and Shelly Wynn.

Rio Social House – October 2020

This was kind of an experiment to see if a unique dinner theater idea worked. The Puzzler is a one-act play divided into five scenes. Each scene represents a different day of the week, Monday-Friday. This was our schedule:

6:00 – Music by Geno Gottschall
6:30 – Intro and poem by David Jewell
6:45 – Scene one (Monday)
6:55 – Appetizers
7:05 – Scene Two (Tuesday)
7:15 – Salad
7:35 – Scene Three (Wednesday)
7:45 – Entree
8:10 – Scene Four (Thursday)
8:20 – Dessert
8:35 – Scene Five (Friday)
8:40 – Q&A with cast and playwright
8:55 – Book signing

A four-course meal was served throughout the evening with a musician playing music during the meal. The scenes of the play were done while no one was eating so the audience could just enjoy the play. The major worry about this format was wondering if the energy of the play would stay alive with the four extended meal breaks. Would the audience eat, talk, drink, and lose focus on the progression of the play or would they use the mealtime to talk about what was happening in the play and keep the energy alive? I can’t say what the audience talked about during the meal but it was very clear the energy was still there. The format was a great success.

We live-streamed one of the shows and will be posting a link to that as soon as it is available.

Hyde Park Theatre’s Frontera Fest – January 31st, 2018

On this special Wednesday evening, ‘The Puzzler’ made its debut. The restrictions of the competition were that the play had to be less than 25 minutes. We came in at 23 with the short version of The Puzzler.

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