The dream project of a diocesan quartet to debut on stage in Detroit

DETROIT – More than a decade in the making, creative work by a group of Catholic friends from the Region includes elements reflecting the personalities of the four collaborators and promises to offer something for theater fans of multiple genres.
“The Bluff: A Musical Murder Mystery Comedy” is set to debut on Friday, March 22 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Home of Diocese of Gary seminarians, the venue is ideal for the family-friendly play, the product of friendships that have spanned many years.
“It’s really been a fun project that’s occupied my life for the last 10 years,” said playwright Matt Kresich, director of young Catholics at Holy Name of Jesus parish in Cedar Lake. “It’s like watching your little child grow up – 10 years from where it started, it was laughable to read some of the original drafts and listen to some of the original songs – the show has matured.”
So, what can the theater-goer and seminary visitor expect of the locally made stage presentation? Kresich said fans of the classic TV detective show “Columbo” who enjoy the methodical sleuthing of the quirky crime-solver may enjoy Bluff. 
Deacon Steven Caraher thought of the film, “Clue,” when offering an example of something relatable to their production.
“The Bluff” presents the story of Dexter Dull, Jr., a young detective in 1920s New York City “who strives to follow his father’s footsteps, and become a world-famous detective.”
Kresich added that family-friendly humor is interspersed within the production. “What we quickly find out is that Dexter is not as sharp as his father is … but he finds himself in the murder mystery of the century,” Kresich explained.
As Lieutenant Columbo is prone to asking, there is “one more question”: How does the theater production show a Catholic perspective?
“Catholics need to make some good art,” musical co-director Deacon Caraher said, lamenting the secular slant of today’s society. “‘The Bluff’ isn’t explicitly Christian … but it definitely has some very implicit Christian values, which I think are especially seen in the main engine of the story, which shows Dexter’s (struggles.)”
Deacon Caraher, of St. Thomas More parish in Munster, is wrapping up his studies in Detroit and preparing for his priestly ordination on June 1. Sounds like the perfect time to co-direct music for a stage production [script note: stated with sarcasm].
“Balance is always something I have to be careful of,” the deacon laughingly said. “I’m trying to find time to study for my comprehensive exams coming up in April, as well as trying my best to organize and put out fires for this musical. It’s been a blessing. It hasn’t been easy, but you kind of find a way to consecrate it to the Lord.”
Despite the busy lives of the four main collaborators – each of whom is in their late 20s – the show must go on. That insistence on the completion of a dream brought friends through cases of writer’s block, umpteen music revisions, and fits of laughter.
Act one, scene one of the play’s development happened when the quartet of friends’ days were filled with baseball games at the Little League park, participating in Scouting pow-wows and going to church events or homeschool co-op meetings.
Kresich was raised in Highland and was homeschooled before attending Purdue University Northwest.
“In all honesty, I don’t remember the first time I met Matt; I’ve known him for such a long time, but once he gave me the script for the musical, I knew I had to be his best friend at that point,” said Scott Peters through a smile. “(I thought) we’re going to make it big. Then it was less friendship and more about starting a journey.”
The besties traveled together on religious pilgrimages and backpacking adventures. Peters also attended PNW. He has refined his musical chops performing at Mass in liturgical settings as diverse as Our Lady of Grace in Highland and Ss. Monica and Luke in Gary.
Kreisch said when he and Peters were teens, they were in a comedy murder mystery. He thought, “Oh, we should write a musical because it’s not that hard.”
Fast-forward several years to a time when Peters became an obsessive-compulsive tunesmith finding ways to create music to match scenes of a play. His classical piano lessons began when he was about 12 years old, though he said, “Nothing was about composing or writing sheet music and I wasn’t planning to do anything with music in college.”
But Peters became a proficient matchmaker – between stage action and music. “Slowly but surely, one song at a time would get done … I thought this musical might actually happen,” he said.
After some initial “naïve dream-chasing” Kresich said new friends came to join the dynamic duo just in the nick of time before “The Bluff,” initially dubbed “Death By Musical,” was nearly “scrapped.”
After seven years of well-intentioned work, Kresich said during a read-through, “We were all laughing so hard because of how bad it was.”
Enter mild-mannered project contributor George Jurincie, who grew up in Munster and attended Munster High School with Deacon Caraher before studying at PNW.
Jurincie managed audio and lighting responsibilities for productions at MHS and also dedicated his time and talent in 2020 when he assisted his home parish in setting up remote broadcasts of liturgies during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kresich called Jurincie the group’s “quality control” specialist.
“Over the past 10 years, it was in the back of my mind thinking about how this is going to be practically produced, giving advice or guidance, my own take on part of the script or music,” Jurincie said.
Deacon Caraher described some of his inspirations for dramatic work as coming early in his grade school days at St. Thomas More.
“When I was in third grade, I got to see a production of “School House Rock Live! Jr.” It’s not like a “Les Misérables" or “Phantom of the Opera,” but I remember being so enraptured watching people that I knew at my school get up and act,” said Deacon Caraher. “I loved it so much that I knew I was going to audition for it in fourth grade.”
Later, he found onstage roles in MHS productions. A young Caraher attended Indiana University before answering a call to the priesthood and advancing to study in a minor seminary at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill., and continuing his studies in Detroit.
Inspired by an active theater department at Sacred Heart, Deacon Caraher said clergymen there are encouraged to “get on stage and learn to present themselves to an audience … and learn how to captivate an audience.” He has coordinated rehearsals for the 23-person cast in Detroit and has linked his Region collaborators with recordings of the run-throughs.
“It’s been a long, long journey and a blessing,” Deacon Caraher said.
A certain feeling of accomplishment is part of the end game for what can only be called a bluff on the theater poster. “Seeing other people performing (the parts) and putting their own creative takes on it is a weird experience,” said Kresich.
Peters agreed, saying it was “really cool to see the play develop. Honestly, I can’t believe it’s happening. It’s so awesome it’s being put on! I can’t wait to see it live.” 


Caption: The cast of The Bluff rehearses the grand ending to "Ain’t No Business." The Bluff is an original musical, created and written by young adults from Northwest Indiana. Starting off as a fun dream in high school, Matt Kresich and Scott Peters began putting together dialogue and musical notes. As the process gained steam, they enlisted the help of close friends, Deacon Steven Caraher and George Jurincie. Opening night will take place March 22 at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. (Photo courtesy of Drew Langton)