ON BOSTON STAGES.com – The return to live theater is a time to celebrate, and to gather with other like-minded souls and experience the magic we missed during the lengthy Covid-19 “intermission.”
Yes, live theater is back, and the Americana Theatre Company is celebrating its delayed 10th anniversary season with a raucous, madcap, thoroughly enjoyable production of “Clue,” currently onstage at the Spire Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Plymouth through July 25.
The comedy is, of course, based on the fabulously successful Parker Brothers board game that itself was based on a murder that took place in Salem. It spawned the 1985 Paramount Pictures film as well as this stage adaptation.
Americana President Peter Martin spoke to the audience before the show, welcomed them back, and noted that the company had planned a production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” but didn’t think coming out of a pandemic it was a good fit.
He made the right choice, as the echo of laughter reverberated throughout the Spire Center from a sold-out house. Americana and the Spire Center have adopted all state safety guidelines for performing arts venues in preparation for the return of live audiences.
When “Clue” opens, it is, of course, a dark and stormy night, circa 1954, and it’s a very unusual dinner party at Boddy Manor, a foreboding New England mansion. Each of the guests has an alias, the butler offers a variety of weapons, and the host is, well … dead.
So whodunnit? Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard race to find the murderer in Boddy Manor before the body count stacks up.
Comedy is never easy. And “Clue” is awash in demanding slapstick and physical comedy, and the script contains an almost endless number of blackouts and scene changes that require precision timing in their execution. Credit goes to director Eric Harrell, who successfully sees his cast through 90 minutes of action at a breakneck pace.
And speaking of execution, the body count will reach frightening levels when the various deadly weapons — rope, candlestick, revolver – start being utilized in the kitchen, conservatory and billiard room. It’s murder most foul … and funny.
The ringmaster of “Clue” is Wadsworth the butler, and Derek Martin, Americana’s executive director, is front and center in a comic tour de force in the role Tim Curry performed in the film.
He will lead the players around by the nose for much of the night, eventually culminating in a hilarious full-speed-ahead recap of all that had happened onstage until that point. He will then lead the cast as a dizzying number of possible murders scenarios are also played out, just as they are in the board game.
There are twists and turns aplenty and even a nod to the board game’s trapdoor.
And while Martin sets the pace, there are some other fine comic turns in supporting roles, including David Friday as the pompous, blustering Colonel Mustard and guest performer Ricardo Foster as Mr. Boddy and a clueless cop in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There’s also strong work from ATC members Erin Friday as Mrs. Peacock, Payton Gobeille as Mrs. White, Jesse Sullivan as Professor Plum, Jesse Winton as Mr, Green, Jennifer Martin as Miss Scarlet and guest performers Sydney Schultis as Yvette and Bridgette Kinsella as Cook/Singing Telegram.
On a dark and stormy summer night in the past, you probably enjoyed a game of “Clue,” and had a favorite character or even your favorite deadly weapon of choice.
There’s great fun to be had in watching those characters come alive and then becoming part of the game being played out onstage.
The Americana Theatre Company Production of “Clue.” Adapted from the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn, with additional materials by Hunter Foster, Eric Price and Sandy Rustin, adapted from the Paramount Pictures film, inspired by the Hasbro, Inc. board game. Directed by Eric Harrell. Stage management by Ciera Mille. Set design by Derek Martin. Lighting design by Heather M. Crocker. At the Spire Center for the Performing Arts, 251/2 Court St., Plymouth through July 25. For tickets or more information, go to americanatheatre.org/tickets, or call 508-591-0282.
By Rich Fahey