The Lakeshore Players in White Bear Lake with the Play “Clue”!

That’s my accusation for who can provide you with a murderously good time for 90 minutes in the theater this January. The play written by Sandy Rustin is based on the mid 80’s comedy film written by Jonathan Lynn and of course the classic Parker Brothers board game (currently published by Hasbro). Gathered together for a dinner party at a remote mansion on a dark and stormy night are the six Clue characters Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet et al. Greeted by the staff Wadsworth the butler, Yvette the maid, and the cook, they are reminded to use the code names they were given on their invites to protect their privacy. After dinner they are invited to meet their host Mr. Boddy in the study, where he reveals that each of the guests is the victim of his blackmail scheme. He gives them each a gift in the form of a weapon, which if you’ve ever played the game you’ll be familiar with i.e the rope, the candlestick etc. He then tells them if they want to avoid having their blackmail amounts doubled, they need to eliminate the person who is blackmailing him. I won’t reveal who that is, but when Mr. Boddy turns out the lights, the killing begins.

That sounds dark and scary, but this is a very light comedy, you don’t have to worry about it being too scary for the tweens or too violent for Grandma. While this plays with the usual whodunnit murder mystery tropes, the main difference is that there’s really no chance or expectation that you’ll be able to figure out who did it. In fact, I’m not sure I even remember who did do it? That isn’t a criticism of the play though, it’s due to a fun technique used at the end in which we are given multiple solutions. I believe where it ended doesn’t account for one murder which we clearly see on stage who commits the crime. Does it matter? not a bit. Director Rose Schwietz gives us several cleverly staged sequences, the end reveals were my favorite of these. Another was the utilization of the rather elaborate sets, which allow for the creation of all the different rooms we are used to from the board game. In one sequence we watch a policeman go through two different rooms packed with characters while the stage hands slowly turn the set pieces giving us a sense that we are quickly moving through the room with the character. One sequence that it felt they never quite cracked was a much too long portion in the center of the play where the various characters are searching through the mansion. It was probably three minutes of people going in and out of doors that felt like ten minutes. There were a couple of interesting payoffs from open doors, but more was needed in this section to justify the time we spend on it.

The sets, lighting design, and sound design all worked well together. The soundscape created Matthew Vichlach from the beginning was particularly effective. With sound effects coming from different speakers in the theatre giving it a surround sound feel. One aspect that didn’t come off as well was the radio broadcast being played during the opening, it was too soft to glean any information from it which I believe was to try and set the time period in which the play was taking place. Shannon Elliott’s lighting was effective in creating the lightening for the storm and when possible drawing our attention to one section of the stage as another was being reset. The set pieces which I’ve already mention were quite versatile, the transitions sometimes taking a little longer than optimal but creating all these different rooms in a mansion on stage is a big ask, and the creativity outweighed the need for patience by the audience.

The cast does a nice job of nailing down their characters. These are not deep roles, but they require a surface layer that is distinct and allows the audience to grasp that character and be able to keep them firmly in mind as we are introduced to the next and the next. For me the standout performance was Derek Dirlam as Wadsworth the butler. Dirlam really committed to the zanier moments but also was the solid glue that held the story however tenuously grounded in some semblance of a reality. Of the classic six characters, the standouts were Theresa Rotter as Mrs. White, Chrissy Sonnek as Mrs. Peacock, and Craig Turino as Mr. Green. Turino sold his clumsy and subordinate character well, with well timed reactions and physical bits of comedy. While Rotter and Sonnek seemed like the most at home in their roles.

For more information and to purchase tickets to Clue click here The show runs through January 30th.