The Michigan State University Department of Theatre’s current production, “Clue,” running through Sunday (Oct. 15), is an absurd and campy whodunit full of physical comedy, sight gags and laughs, inspired by the familiar Parker Brothers board game. The farce takes the form of a murder mystery in a remote mansion where six guests meet for a dinner party that leads to mayhem and murder.
This version of the play, written by Sandy Rustin, is not to be confused with the 1997 musical by Peter DePietro. Rather, it’s a lively update of the 1985 cult-classic film, co-written and directed by Jonathan Lynn. The plot will be familiar to fans of the movie, and the acting students acquit themselves quite well in the iconic and familiar roles. The guests each assume an alias and are offered potential murder weapons by the mysterious butler, and the murders ensue with great energy and vigor.
A spectacular set, designed by Thalia Lara, welcomes the audience, with the elements of the board game faithfully and expertly recreated on the Pasant Stage. I open with the mention of the set because it’s expertly dressed and full of detail. Antiques blend with fine set painting and artfully arranged props to bring the board game to life, and each room seems to have a unique personality.
The lighting is expertly timed and crafted, using gobos and breakups to outstanding effect. The on-stage lights include three hanging chandeliers, one of which moves; three desk lights; and a gorgeous candelabra in the dining room, all of which enhance the mood and intensify the menacing aura of the set. The sound is sharp, and you can expect lightning bolts, gunshots and doorbells to be delivered right on cue. Kudos to the entire tech staff.
The role of Wadsworth the butler, the master of ceremonies for the night, is enacted with dash and gusto by master of fine arts acting candidate Christopher Eastland, who competes with the memorable performance by Tim Curry in the film. Eastland has strong chops, evidenced by his excellent voice, clean physicality and expert comic timing, and he’s outstanding in managing the intricacies his role requires. It is easy to imagine him playing the role in professional tours sometime very soon.
All the characters are memorable and well played, with femme fatale Miss Scarlet (Tessa Kresch) and nuance-challenged Col. Mustard (Tyler Radze) keeping the audience laughing throughout the 90-minute run time. Mr. Green (Ben Corsi) provides laughs and surprises as well as he brings the murder mystery to a quite satisfying conclusion.
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