The information following the review usually indicates where, geographically speaking, the show is taking place. Technically, it took place in our granddaughter’s bedroom in Albany because that’s where I watched it, with the computer propped up on her desk.
But actually the production had been recently filmed in Congregation Beth Israel in Schenectady and was being streamed to our house, on Thursday, December 10.
I miss truly live theater, but I am glad that such forces as Classic Theater Guild have figured out a way to maintain the joy of doing theater and presenting it to us during this awful time. CLUE is a light-hearted piece of murder and mayhem adapted by Sandy Rustin (story by Jonathan Lynn) that, with a libation and a snack on hand, helps to pleasantly pass a winter’s night.
Based on the popular board game, the script introduces us to a manor house in 1954 (note the references to Eisenhower and McCarthy) where, after being summoned by owner Mr. Boddy, a group of six characters being blackmailed by him shows up. When each is introduced, we learn that their ordinary appearances hide some shady doings.
The butler, Wadsworth (Kevin O’Toole), welcomes them, but when the first dead body — Mr. Boddy (get it?) — appears, he takes over the hosting duties. Before the night is through, a half dozen people are dead, and the guests, under Wadsworth’s direction, then have to find out who committed the murders. Was it one of them? Where? In the conservatory? With what? The candlestick?
The script is loaded with groan-worthy one-liners, which means that you’ll have more fun than you would otherwise if you watch this show with someone else. Example: Colonel Mustard (John Quinan): “Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the others?” Wadsworth: “You don’t need my help.” Oh, to be surrounded by an audience!
The playing is broad and the voices are loud, but after you get used to this style, you can settle in and take the piece on its own terms. The good news is that director Michael Silvia and his cast don’t apologize for any of it and simply play it consistently and have fun. The many ensemble reactions to certain moments are well executed. I also enjoyed the choreographed movements from one room in the house to another.
Cassidy Stanley’s atmospheric music and Bob Healy’s sound treatment are fine artistic touches. Nick Nealon and Silvia do right by the challenging video work.
In addition to O’Toole and Quinan, the spirited cast includes Jason Cromie, Leslie Eliashuk, George Filieau, Rebecca Gardner, Julianna Kopa, Kendra Roberts, Russell Roberts, Christine Vermilyea, and Janice Walz.
O’Toole excels in an amusing scene recounting the evening’s events, and Russell Roberts, as Mr. Green, performs some nifty physical comedy and offers a fine explanatory monologue at play’s end.
Masks? Color-coordinated with the name of the character! Do they interfere with our appreciation of the action? Well, we have become used to them, so except for missing facial expressions (compensated for by gestures and emphatic line-reading), we adjust rather quickly.
Oh, one last groaner: after Miss Scarlet tries to worm her way out of being accused of murder, the chief of police says, “Frankly, Miss Scarlet, I don’t give a damn.”
WHAT: CLUE: On Stage
WHERE: Classic Theater Guild
WHEN: Dec. 11 & 12, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 13, 3:00 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $19.95
MORE INFO: Facebook, Classic Theater Guild; 518.387.9150; or go to www.tinyurl.com/getcluetix