Monday, February 03, 2020

“CLUE” is a farcical delight at Cleveland Play House

CLUE” is a stage play of murder and blackmail, based broadly on the Hasbro board game, and the Paramount motion picture of the same name, has gone through several adaptations.  The latest, by Sandy Rustin, with additional material by Hunter Foster and Eric Price, is now on stage at Cleveland Public Theatre.  

Since this is the first staging of this version, Clevelanders have the honor of seeing a world premiere.

The tale takes place in 1954 in the Boddy Manor, a house of epic proportions and terrifying secrets, located in a remote area of New England. 

Six guests, Colonel Mustard (John Treacy Egan), a pompous, not too bright military man, Professor Plum (Michael Kostroff), an academic self-styled Casanova, Mr. Green (Alex Mandell), a timid, rule-follower who is a bit awkward and very anxious, Miss Scarlet (Eleasha Gamble), a DC madam who seems more interested in secrets than sex, Mrs. Peacock (Kathy Fitzgerald), a batty church-going wife of a U.S. Senator, and Mrs. White (Donna English), a woman with lots of dead former-husbands, have been invited for an unusual dinner party.  

A meal with murder and blackmail on the menu! 

Also present are Wadsworth (Mark Price), an uptight butler, the cook (Mariah Burks), a threatening presence, an FBI agent, a cop, Mr. Boddy (Graham Stevens), and Yvetta (Elisabeth A. Yancey), a sexy French maid.

Add a rope, candelabra, wrench, pipe, knife, gun, a falling chandelier, a trap-door, many mistaken identities, a pile of dead bodies, lots of farcical actions and improbable incidents, and you have the makings of a joyous evening.

Farce is hard to do.  Most actors and directors think that playing the lines for laughs creates the right mood.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  To be successful, the lines and actions must be so realistic that the audience laughs at the writing and the interpretation, and not the over-done actions.  That takes skill and talent!

Fortunately, CPH’s production is blessed with director, Casey Hushion, who totally understands how to create credible visual and language farce and shares her vision with a talented cast who each inhabit their role.  The effect is engaging and creates one laugh after the other and a series of “ah-hahs” as the audience is led on a merry chase of solving the mystery.

Lee’s Savage’s creative set design gives Hushion a perfect playground to lead us on our march of delight.  Ryan O’Gara has the blackouts, lightening-flashes, and fade outs down pat.  Michael Holland’s original music adds to the intrigue and nicely under-scores the action, Jeff Human adds scary sounds, and Jen Caprio’s costumes are era-correct.

A conversation with CPH personnel and other producers, including The ARACA Group, a NY production company operated by Cleveland area expats, indicates that representatives from various national theatres are coming to see “CLUE”, and the script, and maybe even this production, may have life after this staging.

Even if the show doesn’t go national, the script will eventually be grabbed up by many community theatres and produced.  

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: If entertainment is your theatrical pleasure, head to the Cleveland Play House where the finely directed and performed “CLUE” is a must see!

For tickets to “CLUE,” which runs through February 23, 2020, call 216-241-6000 or go to