Review: CLUE at Ohio Theatre

Inventative staging, solid casting turns a beloved boardgame into delightful farce

By: Apr. 10, 2024
Review: CLUE at Ohio Theatre
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From the moment the curtain is pulled back on the comedic play CLUE at the Ohio Theater, the audience is aware of one thing: The game is afoot. And an arm. And a clobbered head and many other punctured body parts.

Director Casey Hushion has created a Who Done It farce that draws heavily on the 1985 movie of the same name. In this show, everyone is a suspect … or a victim … or even a combination of the two by the end of the 90-minute performance. Written by Jonathan Lynn and Sandy Rustin, the play incorporates all the original suspects, secret passageways, murder weapons and even the evidence envelopes inside the dark sinister Boddy mansion.

Set designer Lee Savage created a stage that starts out looking like a gigantic portrait of Boddy Manor and the painting morphs into the receiving hall and then into the study and the dining room. By the curtain call, actors have zigzagged in and out of all six rooms that are present on the gameboard.

“Who designed this place?” Professor Plum (Jonathan Spivey) asks as he takes in the lavish lounge.

“The Parker Brothers,” Wadsworth (Mark Price) responds drolly as he rolls his eyes.

The premise is faithful to the game. Each guest is given a mysterious invitation from the host Mr. Boddy (Alex Syiek) to his mansion, a color-based nickname to hide their true identities (Col. Mustard, Ms. Peacock, Miss Scarlet, Mrs. White, Professor Plum, and Mr. Green) and a murder weapon (a lead pipe, a revolver, a candlestick, a wrench, a dagger and “a snake,” Mrs. White exclaims, “no wait, it’s a rope.”) Boddy, the cook and a singing telegram girl (both played by Mariah Burks), a hapless motorist and a policeman (Teddy Trice) and Yvette the maid (Elisabeth Yancey) are slowly picked off one by one.

The script is filled with pratfalls, sight gags, puns and “Dad jokes,” but what makes this play work is the backstory and the personality given to each character and each role contributes something to the plot.

Serving as master of ceremonies is Wadsworth, who has the best one-liners in the show and milks the most out of each one.

Spivey’s Plum is a psychiatrist who lost his license after unproper conduct with a client and now works with the World Health Organization. Wadsworth states, “You were once a professor of psychiatry, specializing in lunatics who were suffering delusions of grandeur” and Plum then counters, “But now I work for the government.” Wadsworth pompously sniffs, “So your work hasn’t changed.”

Col. Mustard (John Treacy Egan) is a military man, who has a physique of stone with a head to match. While most of the characters around him toy with puns, Mustard takes everything at its face value. Mr. Green (John Shartzer) is a spastic ball of apprehension. He is a master of stating the obvious, only to jump to a different conclusion minutes later.

Mrs. White (Tari Kelly) ironically is dressed in black, mourning the most recent passing of her fifth husband. She is accused of playing a role in their deaths, including that of her second husband, an illusionist whose body was never found. “Disappearing was part of his job,” she said. Wadsworth counters, “But he never reappeared.” White responds, “He wasn’t a very good illusionist.”

Miss Scarlet (Michelle Elaine) and Mrs. Peacock (Joanna Glushak) appear to be complete opposites. Scarlet, who runs a prostitution service in Washington D.C., speaks fluently in double entendre. Peacock appears to be a devout God-fearing woman but also hides a well-used flask from the other guests.

Yancey, Trice, and Burks may be listed as minor characters but their roles are crucial to the success of the show.

And just like the game, each of the suspects make guesses on who murdered who. When confronted, the accused will say “But that’s not what really happened.” The accused hits a rewind button, causing the entire cast to walk backward into the previous positions as the accused then presents his or her theory on the crime.

CLUE is a fast-moving, flashy show with puns aplenty and sight gags galore. While it is not a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie or the acting of a Shakespearean tragedy, it is great fun.  Yes indeed the game is afoot. Make sure you don’t get left behind.

Photo Credit: Evan Zimmerman (MurphyMade)

Review: CLUE at Ohio Theatre


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