Yep, they’ve got a clue
Feisty cast breathes life into the classic whodunit
Chico, CA 95926
Was it Professor Plum in the study with a candlestick? Or Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with a lead pipe?
Chico Cabaret‘s latest production of Clue brings life—and death—to the classic characters of the board game with a witty script that takes jabs at the United Nations, the FBI and life in the corrupt nation’s capital.
The production plays loosely off the 1985 movie version, and begins with the characters arriving at a luxurious mansion under the premise of attending a dinner party. But things go awry when the guests find out they were all called together to be blackmailed.
What was to be an evening of fine dining quickly turns into a murder mystery, with bodies piling up and fingers being pointed. And it wouldn’t be a murder mystery without the loud pops of a gun, followed by piercing screams and moments of darkness. The formula works—enticing the audience to want to see more, especially in the scene immediately preceding intermission.
The cast does a good job at keeping the story moving along.
With a too-short skirt and overflowing cleavage, buxom French maid Yvette (Stevie Foster) adds a completely new curvy dimension to the routine whodunit concept. A character absent from the original board game, the maid spices up the stage with her sultry costume and playful lines full of sexual innuendos.
Lea McCleary does a nice job as Mrs. Peacock, the senator’s wife. McCleary exudes the poise and precision of a first lady, always making the audience feel as though she’s got something to hide.
Nick Estap is impressive as the butler Wadsworth (played by Tim Curry in the movie version). Estap almost flawlessly ties together the entire plot, weaving in each character’s role, and ultimately offering multiple scenarios of how the dinner party at the luxurious mansion transformed into murder. The play’s ending requires an inordinate amount of dialogue from Estap, and he performs surprisingly well, rattling off his lines like a respected butler, not an actor from Northern California.
The transformation of a stage into a mansion was probably the most difficult aspect of the production and one that was done fairly well. With multiple doors, a secret passage, and colorful décor, the set comprises a lounge, study, and kitchen, with audience members almost picturing the rooms upon rooms that could lie behind the stage. While the room-to-room running by the cast was exhausting at times for even the audience members who simply sat in their seats, the dynamic set complemented the plot well and functioned pleasantly in bringing to life a huge house in such a small space.
The real treasure in Clue lies not in solving the mystery or seeing the cast shot, hit over the head with a candlestick, or strangled with a rope, but in the wit and humor of a script that transcends time. Even though the play is set in the ‘70s, the jokes about the UN being a useless organization and the country engaging in a war that seemingly has no end still hold up.
With a few twists and turns in the last few minutes, the audience is left guessing who did it right up to the last scene. Despite the somewhat monotonous nature of the play (another death, another accusation), the moments of action and surprise redeem Clue as a worthwhile way to spend $15 and an hour and a half of your time.
Murder mysteries may flood our television lineups, but none brings the charm and nostalgia of this one.