It’s a board game. It’s a movie. It’s a failed off-Broadway musical from the late ’90s. Now CLUE has mysteriously made its way to the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square as a play in CLUE: A NEW COMEDY, running now through February 23rd, 2020.
Based on the 1985 Paramount Pictures film with screenplay written by Jonathan Lynn, and inspired by the classic Hasbro board game, this new adaptation is written by award-winning playwright Sandy Rustin, with additional materials written by Hunter Foster and Eric Price. The production will eventually be heading out on a National Tour scheduled to launch in 2021.
Directed by Casey Hushion, the madcap cast features Mariah Burks (the Cook / Others), John Treacy Egan (Colonel Mustard), Donna English (Mrs. White), Kathy Fitzgerald (Mrs. Peacock), Eleasha Gamble (Miss Scarlet), Josh Innerst (The Cop / Others), Gregory James (Understudy), Michael Kostroff (Professor Plum), Alex Mandell (Mr. Green), Mark Price (Wadsworth), Graham Stevens (Mr. Boddy/Others), and Elisabeth Yancey (Yvette).
The audience is brought into the show through the reveal of a shadowy but spacious mansion. The staff, consisting of butler Wadsworth, maid Yvette, and the Cook, prepare for an eventful evening set up by Mr. Boddy. But what is to be expected from a night based on a board game? “I find if you expect nothing, you are never disappointed,” suggests Wadsworth. He seems to be in charge, sort of, and Yvette and the Cook are along for the ride.
The guests arrive one by one, and each of their quirks and idiosyncrasies are introduced at the door. There is pleasantry and chit chat – and no real names are allowed! But what could this random group possibly have in common?
Professor Plum is a psychologist who slept with a patient. Mrs. Peacock is a senator’s wife who knows a bit about bribery. Miss Scarlet is a high-end escort. Mrs. White is suspected of murder. Mr. Green is a nervous Republican. Colonel Mustard is a military man who’s a bit of a goof.
This group has been invited to dinner, where they discover they are all from the same area of the country, and that they’re all being blackmailed. Following the meal, they’re presented with the question of “whodunnit?” They are each also given one weapon – a rope, a candle stick, a revolver, a knife, a wrench, and a lead pipe.
Suddenly it’s everyone for themselves in this multi-space set (not designed by Parker Brothers), as the bodies start to pile up. The hilarious action is precisely plotted by director Casey Hushion, as spoofs, gags and double entendres are bandied about by the actors. Characters run from room to room, the chandelier crashes, the lights go out, and the play successfully leaves the audience dizzy in the delicious commotion.
The actors are delightfully over-the-top, with Mark Price as the ring master who runs this circus with charisma and enigmatic charm. Kathy Fitzgerald is notable as Mrs. Peacock, as the character is memorably sparkly, effervescent and a bit batty. Alex Mandell’s Mr. Green is adorably skittish, which is a contrast to Eleasha Gamble’s sultry and confident Miss Scarlet. Donna English’s Mrs. White is perfectly uptight and unapologetic, while John Treacy Egan presents the cocky dunce of the Colonel Mustard character, and Michael Kostroff gives us a slightly sleazy and judgey Professor Plum. Elisabeth Yancey (the Maid) and Mariah Burks (the Cook / Others) are also interesting in their roles.
Hats off to the production designers, as they’ve successfully created the creepy and spooky 3D dwelling that goes well beyond a Hasbro game board. Jeff Human (Sound Designer), Jen Caprio (Costume Designer), J. Jared Janas (Wig, Hair & Makeup Designer), Ryan O’Gara (Lighting Designer), and Lee Savage (Set Designer) earn points for detail and bursts of color amidst the drabness. Michael Holland (Composer) also keeps the mood eerie with the music.
Although it lacks substance, CLUE: A NEW COMEDY is an enjoyable evening wrapped up into a perfect time bow of one hour and 20 minutes with no intermission. Filled with kooky jokes, lots of tricks, and quick pacing, this production will amuse all ages. Roll the dice on this one if you’re looking for quick thrills and a bit of nostalgia!
TICKETS are available by calling 216-241-6000, or by visiting www.clevelandplayhouse.org.
Slideshow below – Photos by Ken Blaze