They’re a hoot, these two, and why wouldn’t they be? Life’s pretty okay for Eric and Jayne Post — you can tell that much after five minutes at their dining-room table, watching them zing each other with love and practiced ease. They’re professional comic entertainers; they’ve been married for 26 years; they’re square with God; and right now they have an audience, even if it’s just an interviewer. They’re on. Eric has just made a crack about Jayne’s age.
“Here’s the thing in our home,” she says. “If you laugh, you get away with it.” (She’d laughed.) “Comedy reigns at all times.”
Eric, big, bluff and quick, and Jayne, charismatic and blessed with spot-on comic timing, are the team behind the dinner-theater show Marriage Can Be Murder at The D. Two hours of clean jokes, audience plants, a mystery to unravel and a culprit for viewers to unmask, Marriage is, their publicist insists, at 15 years the city’s longest-running dinner theater production. If that sounds like asterisked praise, you try putting on a show seven nights a week, improvising through all the contingencies of audience response, herding actors, acting in it yourself, writing a new storyline every three months to keep it fresh … “The show does work like a well-oiled machine,” Eric says, “but I have to stay vigilant and continue to oil it.”
Before we get to Marriage Can Be Murder, let’s begin with marriage. How’d you two come together? Like many fairy tales, this one begins in Sacramento, where a young naval lieutenant with the acting bug sought work with a murder-mystery dinner-theater troupe, wherein worked a young comedienne. “I came by, saw her …” Here, there’s a pause in his taped conversation. Then you hear Jayne’s voice, speaking drily: “For the recording, he’s licking his eyebrows.” Seems he was taken with her. Onstage, they were a good match. “Instead of fighting for the mic,” he says, “it was like, ‘Oh, it’s your turn, oh, it’s my turn,’ which was hugely impressive. On top of which, she was beautiful.” (Still is.)
They married 58 days later.
After that it was a couple years in Lake Tahoe — “poverty with a view,” in Jayne’s words — where they’d taken their own murder-mystery show, while also performing odd jobs. “We were Caesar and Cleopatra at Caesars,” Jayne recalls. “One year for New Year’s, he was Carmen Miranda …”
“For two different casinos on the same night!” Eric crows.
“Our kids,” she says, “did not have a conventional upbringing.”
After that, Vegas.
Even with its well-defined narrative and characters, the show — thanks to its often-raucous audience-participation element — is an exercise in managed chaos. People are unpredictable; for one show they’re into the mystery and not the humor, at the next a rowdy bachelorette party might set the tone. Or take the night the 8-year-old kid came with his parents. You don’t look happy to be here, they joked with him. “I’m in Vegas,” the kid replied, and the house came down. After years of this, at the old Castaways, at the Egg & I, now at The D, they don’t feel upstaged by such moments — that fluidity, says Eric, who directs the show, “is what makes it fun to do every night.”
“The murder mystery is the vehicle for our comedy and fun,” he adds. “At the end of the night, if they haven’t figured out the mystery but laughed a lot, I’m happy.”
So it makes sense, this rule they have: There are no bad audiences. Jayne: “If we come back and say, ‘Wow, this is a tough crowd,’ Eric says, ‘It’s not a tough crowd, you just have to be a better actress.’ ‘Ooo-kaaay,’” she mock-cringes. After 26 years, he still gives her critique notes.
Comic magician Adam London, who performed in Marriage before launching his own show at the D, Laughternoon, marvels at “how quickly they play off of each other. They’re a great comedy team. He knows how she’s going to react and she knows how he’s going to react.”
You know who else knows how they’re going to react? God. You might’ve heard of Him, producer of the longest-running show in existence, Existence. The Posts are huge fans. They’re active in the church Jayne helped found in 2013 with co-pastor, Rhonda Baker, Sin City Church. The appealing frankness of that name is reflected in everything from the church’s transparent finances to the way the Posts let their faith suffuse their work. It’s why they don’t work blue; it’s why Eric calls to encourage every person who auditions for the cast, no matter how bad they bombed it.
“At the end of the day,” Jayne says, “we’re more concerned about the people, and we’re going to do that with our church, and we’re going to do that with our show.”