Allegany Magazine Online Review: Cumberland Theatre’s “Clue: On Stage”
It’s a magical mystery tour – a Saturday morning cartoon come to life
By SHANE RIGGS
Managing Editor, Allegany Magazine
It’s called a play for a reason.
Because for an hour or three, actors on stage get to "play." They get to wear fun, colorful costumes of furs and feathers and pretend to be someone they are not. They get to be overly dramatic or silly. They get to live out the lives of other people that we might not otherwise meet had it not been for purchasing a ticket. Actors live in a land of make believe and “dress up” and take their audience members on a journey of make believe. If the chemistry between an entire cast is just right, sometimes all that playing around and pretending can take those witnessing it to a land we might not go or into a story we might not read or introduce us to people we might not otherwise meet. This, of course, is important when staging dramas but it can become especially tricky for comedies – only a well-crafted and well directed “play” can draw an audience in for nearly a two hour ride that feels like it goes by in a blink.
And that is certainly the case for the Cumberland Theatre’s production of Clue: On Stage. Yes, that Clue. The play based on the movie based on the board game by Parker Brothers. The actual board game we all played at sleepovers and during summer camp.
Here, all the murder suspects we know and loathe come to vibrant and very three dimensional life – Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, Ms. White, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, and Mr. Green. Who was your favorite when you played?
The board game and the story unfold one dark and stormy night at the home of Mr. Boddy – an obviously eccentric kook of a character who has assembled six strangers to "play" a game at his estate. The story "plays" out (are you sensing the theme here?) on a set designed by Rhett Wolford that is a combination of the actual vintage board and the series Dark Shadows.
Our actors and players in this twisted but uproarious murder mystery arrive one by one with their invitations in hand, beckoned by an offer none of them can refuse.
As a side note, the fun in this show begins even before the plot thickens with the opening live announcements. Do not be late for the performance or you will miss an opening monologue that is quite clever and sets the tone perfectly for this two-act funhouse experience.
Veteran stage actress Nicole Halmos is here. She gets a chance to strut her feathers and prove her physical comedy fearlessness as the politically connected and seemingly incontinent Mrs. Peacock. Her presence in this play is an incredible combination of Shirley MacLaine in Downtown Abbey and Delta Burke in Designing Women.
Kimberli Rowley dons dark hair to play the merry black widow, Ms. White. Her performance teeters somewhere between Carolyn Jones’ Morticia Addams and Kyle Richards from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. One of the first times I laughed out loud in the show was with her character.
“Didn’t your husband mysteriously disappear, Ms. White?”
“He was always disappearing. He was an illusionist.”
“But he didn’t reappear, did he?”
“I didn’t say he was a good illusionist.”
Ashley Snow returns to the CT and this time, she is the sultry DC Madam with a heart of gold – Miss Scarlet – seemingly everyone’s favorite playing piece in this game – pun intended. Head to toe in fire engine red sequins, she channels Christina Aguilera and Betty Grable.
And not to forget the boys in this band of usual suspects.
Bill Dennison looks as if he is ready to be cast as the next Darron in Bewitched as Mr. Green. Bill can say more with one facial expression than an entire page of dialogue.
Real life local professor Gregory Stuart makes his debut at the Cumberland Theatre in a role that he handles with – ahem – aplomb. You can make the connection. You know the punchline is coming from his mouth by the way he handles his pipe. And it’s fun to watch.
Shawn Cox certainly cuts the Mustard as the Colonel named for a condiment. His character shifts back and forth between the all-knowing oracle who can read everyone to then becoming a clueless non sequitur spouting goofball. But could that be a red herring? I’ll never tell.
If this show was based on another board game, Matt Kurzyniec would own Park Place and Boardwalk and would be passing go and collecting hundreds of dollars. As the often manic but always in control Wadsworth, this is his show to steal and he does. In fact, one might say he "slays" the role. He is never unwatchable when he is on stage. Just call him Milton Bradley because he owns the whole patent on this game!
Supporting players include Rachel Lawhead as an adorable Yvette; Seth Thompson in three challenging roles (Thompson also serves as the show’s fight captain); Morganne Chu as both the cook and singing telegram girl (don’t blink when she shows up at the door); and Marty Jellison as the hapless cop.
Costumed appropriately and festively in their character’s signature rainbow of colors by Jennifer Clark, each actor gets his or her chance to shine like gold here.
Directed beautifully by Darrell Rushton, the show is fast paced, well-timed, mysterious, just spooky enough for Halloween, and full of humor that we all so desperately need right now. The Cumberland Theatre version of Clue: On Stage is chock full of wit and charm. It is the perfect pandemic cocktail – if you can trust that the cocktail is not laced with (cue thunder sound effect) poison!
The show is a bright whimsical and lively farce – often intentionally over-the- top and very funny. At times, it feels like an homage to Agatha Christie or the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mysteries. But most times it likens a Marx Brothers movie or something from Abbott and Costello. There are even moments reminiscent of a Scooby Doo episode – complete with chase scenes in and out of multiple hallways and doors. But there is something lovely to be said about enjoying a Saturday morning cartoon on a Friday night.
And so…. was it the lead pipe, the dagger, the candlestick, the revolver, or the rope? In the study, the drawing room, the lounge, the library or the kitchen? No spoilers here. Go see the show and play the game yourself. Roll the dice, move ahead a space or two and see if you can figure out “whodunnit” for yourself. This is one show where we all get to play the game and play along as the actors play … in a play. That will all make sense when you see the show at the CT and finally get a “Clue.”
The Cumberland Theatre presents Clue: On Stage tonight through October 24. In accordance with COVID-19 state regulations, masks are required for all patrons inside the theatre.