Theater Review: “Clue – A New Comedy”

  • CLUE – A New Comedy
  • The Kauffman Center, Kansas City, Missouri
  • April 2, 2024


Last week audiences at the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City learned the answer to a mystery: Could the laughs from Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 movie adaptation of the game Clue work on stage?


It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes, Jessica Marple or even Beniot Blanc to know the answer was yes. Because Lynn’s movie had a single location and was set in roughly real time, it didn’t take much effort for Sandy Rustin, Hunter Foster and Eric Prince to make the tale work in another medium.


In many ways Clue is funnier live. Watching the cast scampering from a potential killer seems sillier on stage because there isn’t far for them to run. In addition, any fisticuffs that occur during the play seem amusingly innocuous. Greg Balla’s fight choreography ensures the struggles don’t stray into the sadistic or macabre.


Lynn’s storyline and much of his dialogue remains. A group of anonymous strangers have been lured to a mansion by a series for letters. Professor Plum (Jonathan Spivey), Mr. Green (John Shartzer), Miss Scarlet (Michelle Elaine), Mrs. White (Tari Kelly), Mrs. Peacock (Joanna Glushak) and Col. Mustard (Jon Treacy Egan) are not using their real names, and there is a good reason for it. All have managed to run afoul McCarthy-ite witch hunts in 1954 and have additional issues that would be golden for a blackmailer.


Their host, the butler Wadsworth (Mark Price), reveals that they are the victims of a blackmailer named Mr. Body (Alex Syiek). He appears and informs them his demands are going to increase. When the lights in the New England mansion go out, so does the chaos that ensues receives some help from Lee Savage’s sets, which morph into different rooms with interrupting the action. As a result the story leaps floors and covers more ground.


The original movie featured a dream team of character actors (Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn), but the current touring cast is up for the task as well. Shartzer and Elaine, in particular, seem to enjoy sinking their teeth into their roles and lead viewers to hope their characters aren’t the ones who made Mr. Body live up to his name. There are no intermissions in the current production, so the play is a test of the cast’s endurance, and they handle the demand of being “on” constantly effortlessly.


For fans of the game there are dozens of little nods to how a round of it would proceed. The weapons come straight for the box that Hasbro sells.


As of this writing, the current producing is in Cleveland, and audiences there are in for a treat. Clue manages to be a frothy delight despite the fact it involves fatalities. If the game Ais afoot in your city, you won’t have to be a Hasbro stockholder to enjoy the fiendish plot unraveling.


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