Murder, madness, mystery, and mayhem. More fun than you can imagine.
An unusual invitation gathers a group of people in a luxurious American-gothic mansion. Nobody knows each other, but they have something in common: they are all being blackmailed by the landlord, Mr. Boddy, who suddenly appears with a bizarre gift for each one of his guests. Things get crazy when Mr. Boddy is killed and suddenly other murders start to happen. But who’s the murderer?
It was Professor Plum in the Lounge with the gun, or maybe it was Colonel Mustard in the study with the wrench. “No! It happened like this.” No, that's not right either. I suppose you'll have to find out when you see Kentwood Players' thrilling production of Clue this weekend, enjoying a very successful run at the Westchester Playhouse. The show began on March 18 and continues with only three more performances to go: Friday, Apr 8th at 8PM, and Saturday, Apr 9th at 2PM and 8PM.
Little did anyone suspect that, when the Clue board game was developed, it would give birth to books, a film, a television series, a musical, and a stage play. The original board game was called Cluedo, designed in 1943 by British musician Anthony E. Pratt as he sat sequestered in his home during the WWII air raids. It didn’t take long then for Parker Bros. in the U.S. to develop their own version, renamed Clue. Multiple editions later, characters, weapons, mansion rooms, and even methods of dispensing cards have changed—but the concept of the ultimate detective mystery has remained. So too has its popularity remained. Everyone wants to be Sherlock Holmes
Clue is a comedic play written by Sandy Rustin. It’s inspired by the classic board game and based on the 1985 Paramount movie by Jonathan Lynn. One night in 1954, six strangers from different walks of life are invited by the mysterious Mr. Boddy to dinner at his mansion not too far from Washington, D.C. It is a dark and stormy night when the invited guests arrive—perfect weather for a story of blackmail and murder. But these six people don’t know each other, and they seem to have nothing in common. Why they have received this invitation to a stranger’s home is anybody’s guess. Soon enough, secrets are revealed, people are killed, and plenty of insanity ensues.
If you’ve played the game Clue, you know the party-goers. First, we meet stiff-upper-lipped butler Wadsworth (Michael Mullen), the hard-boiled cook (Kaitlyn Schott) and the striking ooh-la-la French maid Yvette (Anica Petrovic), who welcome the motley group.
There’s the dimwitted Colonel Mustard (Nathan Gebhard, with excellent timing); the multiple divorcée Mrs. White (Amanda Webb); the batty Mrs. Peacock (Catherine Rahm), a senator’s wife with a drinking problem who dresses like an American Girl doll; the vivacious madame Miss Scarlet (Jennifer Sanchez); the handsy shrink Professor Plum (Sean Spencer); and gay Republican Mr. Green (Ben Billand), who’s hiding the fact he didn’t vote for Eisenhower in the last election. Each with his or her own secret. After a bit of exposition, each is handed one of the classic game murder weapons: a gun, a rope, a wrench, a candlestick, a knife, or a lead pipe. Let the games begin.
They soon discover that their ties to Washington, ranging from the morally murky to the criminal, have landed them on the wrong end of a blackmailing scheme. After their host Mr. Boddy (Aidan Petoyan) arrives about halfway through dinner, he adds McCarthyism blacklisting to their worries.
The lights turn off. Things begin to go bump in the night, and Mr. Boddy winds up dead, with the dwindling survivors scrambling to make sense of it all. Eventually, the bodies of the maid and the cook turn up as well, adding to the hysteria.
Daniel Kruger directs with a light hand and steady eye toward the laughs, and “Lefty” Plunkett’s set conveys an appropriately stuffy mansion, with various rooms and passages and even a falling chandelier. The play is enhanced authentically with exquisite, quality costuming, styled by Jon Sparks, which makes the stage look like a living board game.
Much of the charm of Clue lies in its outlandish characters, and the performances here rise to the occasion. The finely tuned cast scurrying about to convince a stray cop (also Kaitlyn Schott) that the propped-up corpses are merely having a good time, for instance, was a lively scene and a welcome throwback to a past era of physical comedy.
Michael Mullen leads the cast with a smirking, giddy performance as Wadsworth the butler; his glee is infectious as he races around the stately mansion at top speed with incredible mouthfuls of explanatory dialogue. Amanda Webb channels the late Madeline Kahn (from the movie) with her twitching, fidgety and uproarious turn as Mrs. White.
Catherine Rahm earns endless laughs and affection with her endearing take as the outspoken and agitated Mrs. Peacock, while Nathan Gebhard’s pompous and animated Colonel Mustard (impossible to ignore) and Jennifer Sanchez’ sarcastic Miss Scarlet do strong work carrying much of the show’s verbal humor.
Ben Billand (as Mr. Green) and Sean Spencer (as Professor Plum) are both excellent. And the supporting cast handling a multitude of roles are especially impressive: Aidan Petoyan’s bodacious Mr. Boddy/Chief of Police/Motorist, and Kaitlyn Schott’s fateful Cop/Cook/Singing Telegram Girl. And Anica Petrovic’s Yvette, in her skin-tight outfit, adds vitality to the stage, even in death.
Together, this ensemble solves the mystery of how to have good chaos on stage. Sure, the plot complications creak louder than the steps in Mr. Boddy’s mansion. But every panicked cacophony and mislaid plan seems entirely natural. Every snappy scene moves and flows with effortless energy. Several characters may be dead by the end of the show, but the stage is utterly alive at every moment, thanks to a sparkling cast, high production values, and oodles of comic energy. It’s a lovably ridiculous romp, dashing from deadpan to manic and back again, enlivened by top-tier comedic talent.
CLUE, Presented by KENTWOOD PLAYERS at WESTCHESTER PLAYHOUSE, Performing March 18th through April 9th; Written by SANDY RUSTIN; Additional Material by HUNTER FOSTER & ERIC PRICE; Based on the screenplay by JONATHAN LYNN and the PARAMOUNT PICTURES MOTION PICTURE; Based on the HASBRO board game CLUE; Original Music by MICHAEL HOLLAND; Directed by DANIEL KRUGER; Assistant Director COURTNEY SHAFFER; Produced by ALISON BOOLE, MICHELE SELIN AND BRIAN WELLS; Set Design by SHAWN “LEFTY” PLUNKETT; Lighting Design by MICHAEL THORPE; Sound Design by SUSAN STANGL; Costume & Wig Design by JON SPARKS; Stage Managers are RICHARD SANTILENA & LYTHA RODDY.
WITH: ANICA PETROVIC, MICHAEL MULLEN, KAITLYN SCHOTT, NATHAN GEBHARD, AMANDA WEBB, CATHERINE RAHM, BEN BILLAND, SEAN SPENCER, JENNIFER SANCHEZ & AIDAN PETOYAN.
Duration: approx. 90 minutes with no intermission. Closing date April 9th. Three performances remaining: Friday, Apr 8th at 8PM, and Saturday, Apr 9th at 2PM and 8PM. For Tickets and further information, please visit: www.kentwoodplayers.org
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report
Photo Credits: Gloria Plunkett