We get it — the menu for Cleveland Stories Dinner Party is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.Taken alone, the crispy hearts of romaine, saucy pasta puttanesca and rum-soaked ladyfingers make a fine dinner. And we’re interested in hearing author Robert Sberna and documentary filmmaker Laura Paglin discuss Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell and how he eluded authorities for more than two years.
But pair these together for the Feb. 21 Cleveland Stories Dinner Party, part of the 2-year-old storytelling series from Music Box Supper Club and Cleveland History Center? That’s not cheeky — it’s just distasteful.
“Murder mysteries in Cleveland are some of the most popular topics,” says Music Box vice president and managing partner Mike Miller. “Even though this may be a fairly gruesome topic, [audience members] know we’re not going to take it real seriously.”
And yet, a little compassion should be warranted.
Sowell preyed on vulnerable women — sex workers, runaways and those struggling with drug addiction — who he felt wouldn’t be missed. Serving a pasta dish that roughly translates to “lady of the night” only further serves to dehumanize the 11 women he killed and others he attacked. They were mothers, daughters and sisters with family and friends.
Unlike the Torso Murders of the 1930s, which was a January 2017 Dinner Party topic, the Sowell case remains far too close for such treatment. This feels like sensationalizing violence for the sake of entertainment, and it shows absolutely no heart.