The Tourist Trap: A Midwestern Gothic at the Crane Theater

Ghoulish Delights chief ghoul, and member of The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society (the MORLS), Tim Uren writes and directs this revised and expanded version of his Minnesota Fringe Festival production from 2014. Not having seen the original production, I can’t speak to what changed whether added or subtracted. I can say, the version I saw runs close to the timing of a Fringe show but contains a 10 minute intermission. The Tourist Trap is a fun little horror play that lays out its own original mythology. It also poses the question, what does it mean to be from somewhere and who is the real native of this little area of South Dakota where the play is set. Above all, Uren reminds us with this piece is when you visit South Dakota, there will be blood.

When a group of friends visits a tourist museum in the Black Hills of South Dakota, devoted to a 19th century murderous cult leader named Marcus Bingham, they discover a whole new meaning to the term “tourist trap”. Uren’s script nicely lays out the backstory of the subject, the museum which is layered upon and enriched by the set Design of Devyn Becker. This “historical” basis for the museum is really well developed and actually sounds plausible. Horror works best when it builds from a believable starting point and this is The Tourist Trap‘s biggest asset. Uren starts the play the moment we enter the theater where we are encouraged to explore the museum exhibits (on stage). I recommend getting to the theater with at least 10+ minutes to take in what is on display. You won’t need the information as the tour guide as the characters will provide all the necessary exposition; however, it adds to the richness of the experience. I don’t really want to say anything more about the plot, not knowing which path this horror show will take is part of the fun.

The cast is filled with local performers who have popped up in all manner of shows over the years. If you’ve been to the Minnesota Fringe Festival, The Twin Cities Horror Festival (TCHF) or any of the 10,000 local theaters you’ve likely seen and enjoyed many of them in other productions. They all do do nice work here and you can tell their past experiences have prepared them for what they need to bring to a horror show. Two of the cast Jay Kistler and Sean Dillon performed in what I thought was the best show at the 2022 TCHF, Duck Washington’s All Your White Darlings. But I have to confess the true Draw for me aside from Uren was Shanan Custer who plays Dianne, the owner operator of the Museum. I’ve always loved Custer’s performances with the MORLS and have been enjoying her other roles on and off stage for decades. One of my oldest sons earliest theater experiences was the serialized London After Midnight shows she was a part of at Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. What a blast to see Custer tackle something dark and disturbing, unlike anything I’d seen her do before. She’s all in and still manages to get the biggest laugh without shifting the tone or breaking the mood of the piece. Fans of this Twin Cities Theatre Goddess are not going to want to miss this chance to see her go dark, very dark.

Uren script is the winner with the direction in need of a little tightening up. The tension is a bit lax with the character remaining a little too rational as things begin to go south. I like everything that happens, but the actors needed some stronger motivations at times for the characters movements or lack thereof to feel earned. It all stays a little too tame when things go crazy. On one hand, it was probably for the best as my wife was able to enjoy the show and will be able to sleep tonight. But I think there’s room to make what happens felt more viscerally by the audience, therein can also be a distraction from some characters in action or the motivation for it, that they are in shock. The lighting Design Ariel Pinkerton who also plays Joelle in the play, creates some extra tension with a sudden lights-out moment between the acts. Until the house lights come up, you’re on the edge of your seat. The blood and other effects are well handled, I’m guessing that is the work of Violence Coordinator, Jena Young. You’ve been warned, there are some mildly gruesome moments and a fair amount of blood in the show.

Overall, this is a really well thought out script with a underlying mythology that feels as real as the Blair Witch legend did back in 1999. Horror fans will find this a bloody good time. The Tourist Trap runs through May 20th at the Crane Theater in NE Minneapolis. For more information and to purchase tickets go to You can also find out about the MORLS live performances and their podcast and if you haven’t taken in one of their performances done in the style of old radio broadcasts, I highly recommend it!

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I am also a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (TCTB), you can read roundups of shows by my colleagues and I on facebook @TwinCitiesTheaterBloggers. Follow that group, It’s a great way to see reviews for shows I don’t get to or to get another blogger’s take on one I did. We have some exciting things in the works for 2023 for the TCTB and our readers. Follow us to be the first to know about those happenings like our recent Pajama Party at Artistry and our Prom Date with the TCTB that we held on March 4th. If you didn’t make it to that event there’s still time to see the The Prom at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (CDT) thru June 10th . You can view the TCTB Talk Back that we held on March 4th with the CDT Artistic Director and three of the stars of The Prom here