THEATER REVIEW: “Clue” @ Cleveland Play House by Laura Kennelly

Sun 2/23

Clue: A New Comedy, now at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre, mixes outstanding acting, scenery and a classic board game to combine mystery and farce. Everyone needs a laugh in February and Clue fills the bill. Based on the 1985 film of the same name, this adaptation by playwright Sandy Rustin includes additional materials written by Hunter Foster and Eric Price. This Cleveland Play House production is in development for a national tour of Clue in 2021.

There’s a body in the Boddy Mansion. Who did it? Six colorful, yet clueless guests wrestle with this question after first thinking their only problem was why they were invited. The butler, the maid and the cook also seem confused. When the authorities arrive, they too are flummoxed. And to be truthful, those audience members who think they can see clearly who the murderer is (everyone knows the saying about the butler, don’t they?) may also find themselves confused.

The only thing that’s certain is that it’s a dark night, and a storm is brewing, as frequent lightning  reminds us.

Director Casey Hushion allows the actors to embrace their colorful characters with fitting (mock) theatricality as they reveal their secrets. Eleasha Gamble, as Miss Scarlet, sashays around in a beautiful red dress that fits like a dream. Her Miss Scarlet must have gone to school with Mae West, given their similar take on words and men. Very funny.

John Treacy Egan plays authority figure Colonel Mustard with an appropriate blend of pompous, dense and stuffy, as does Michael Kostroff as Professor Plum. They join the oft-flustered Mrs. White (Donna English, sophisticated in ironic black), the imperious (and abundantly accessorized) Mrs. Peacock (Kathy Fitzgerald), and the seemingly hapless Mr. Green (Alex Mandell).

Mark Price ably plays Wadsworth, the traditional know-it-all butler. The versatile Graham Stevens takes on the pivotal role of Mr. Boddy (and others). Elisabeth Yancey as the French maid projects a suitable vibe to match her sexy maid garb. Others who join the melee onstage include Josh Innerst (the Cop), and Mariah Burks (the cook).

The design team that put together the delightful (murderous) mayhem that is Clue includes Lee Savage for stunning scenic design that employs surprising and clever set changes, often propelled by the hard-working actors. As the rapid action moves from room to room in the host’s vast mansion, there’s one visual joke or scenic surprise after another.

Michael Holland composed the scary music, while Kevin Inouye created the elaborate choreography. Other special effects that made us jump and pay close attention were created by Jen Caprio (costume design), Ryan O’Gara (lighting design), Jeff Human (sound design), and Jared Janas (hair, wig and makeup design). If you suppose costumes, makeup and choreography aren’t special effects, you suppose wrong. Everything works together, especially in Mark Price’s multiple and zany recaps. It takes a fit cast to pull off the latter: this cast is fit.

BOTTOM LINE: Yes, it’s light as a feather; that’s one of its charms. Whether you’ve seen the movie (free, BTW if you have Amazon Prime — sorry, that’s not an advertisement, just a happy discovery for one who never saw the film) or played the board game as a child (a game still sold, still a good ice-breaker, and today a distraction from iPhones), it’s a treat to watch this excellently executed story of murder and blackmail. 

[Written by Laura Kennelly]

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