Review: CLUE at Ridgefield Theater Barn

Parker Brothers Meet Marx Brothers

By: Feb. 15, 2024
Review: CLUE at Ridgefield Theater Barn
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Need a break from streaming and bingeing and all the newfangled ways to get your entertainment fix? 

If you’re looking for live, purely escapist entertainment that’s silly and fun, not to mention nostalgic, but you haven’t a clue on where to find it, I have the evidence that points in the direction of Ridgefield Theater Barn. That’s where you’ll uncover the laugh-a-minute comedy “Clue,” which is slaying audiences through Feb. 24. 

Yes, this stage version is based on the classic board game of the same name, which turns 75 this year. Players of the original game, set in a mansion with many rooms and corridors, move around the board to guess whodunit (which of the six colorful characters), where it was done (which room) and whatdunit (which weapon). 

That basic premise remains intact. We are reunited with our old friends Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Mr. White, Professor Plum, and Mrs. Peacock, along with the stock weaponry – Candlestick, Lead Pipe, Rope, Wrench, Revolver, Dagger. As the game is afoot, players wend their way through the nine rooms of the mansion, taking a stab at solving the murder by conjecturing that the dirty deed was done by, for instance, by “Mr. Green in the Kitchen with a Rope.” And so it goes …

But the plot for “Clue” is beside the point. It’s a convenient and logical framework on which to hang a very clever script that is so chock-a-block with wordplay and sight gags, a logical logline for this farcical “Clue” (based on the 1985 movie) would be “Parker Brothers meets Marx Brothers.” (Ed. Note: The board game now is owned by Hasbro.)

The stage play is by Sandy Rustin, based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn, with additional material by Hunter Foster and Eric Price

The colorful Clue characters, including the enjoyably clueless Colonel Mustard (a wonderfully deadpan David Michael Tate) have been summoned to Boddy Manor by its mysterious owner for reasons that soon become both apparent and very distressing. Before long, slain bodies at Boddy are piling up almost as fast as the puns, reaching a total of six fatalities (far outnumbered by the wink-wink witticisms). Why are those unfortunate souls targeted and who’s responsible? 

The ringleader, as it were, of this motley crew of usual suspects is Wadsworth the butler, played pitch-perfect, as always, by Matt Austin. Who better than the stage-savvy Mr. Austin to single-handedly recap, near the end of the play, the entire story. Moving about like a whirling dervish, he delivers a head-spinning retrospective of the plot points, wherein he frenetically impersonates the other characters to mirthful effect.

With Mr. Austin setting the pace (with a big nod of approval here to veteran Director David Fritsch) the cast works tightly as an ensemble, with nice turns by Isabella Bertram (Scarlet), Kymberly Smith (Peacock), Ryan ellen Burbank (White), Matt Regney (Green), Sam Bass (Professor Plum), and the aforementioned Mr. Tate (Mustard). 

Also noteworthy are supporting players Lisa Dahlstrom (Yvette the maid), Liz Allen (Cook), Sean Latasa (Mr. Boddy and others), and Greg McLaughlin (Policeman).

There’s a key “character” in this “Clue” that has no name and no dialogue but is constantly on the move throughout the show, a virtual star in its own right: I’m speaking of the creative and highly functional set design, by “Clue” Director David Fritsch, along with Scenic Designer and Painter Claudis Noel Nerreau. 

Representing the various manor rooms are several painted flats that fan out, anchored by a rear hinge that allows each flat to be pivoted back and forth. There are doors cut into each flat for the actors to remain center stage and yet also move around the house as the action dictates. It’s a great example of resourceful stagecraft. 

Another critical production asset for “Clue” is the sound scoring by Sound Designer and Operator Addis Engel, with music “stings” used to punctuate a plot point, adding a cinematic dimension to the action, and eliciting its own laughs. The original music is by Michael Holland.

Kudos too to Stage Manager Robert Kruzykowski, Production Manager Pamme Jones, Props Master Liz Allen, Lighting Designer Mark Hankla, Set Builders Michael Macri and Fred Rueck, Sound Designer and Operator Addis Engel, Assistant Lighting Designer Sophie Bardos, and Light Board Operators Keith Henderson and Erin Sullivan