I had no clue about “Clue,” a black comedy based on a Hasbro-Parker Bros. board game, now at Manoa Valley Theatre. Missed the 1985 movie, too, so this was a wholly mysterious endeavor for me.
It’s a whodunnit, set at the Tudor Mansion, on a stormy, dark night, where six mysterious guests are invited to a dinner party.
The arrivals are a motley crew with outrageous names and eccentricities who are greeted by an equally suspicious butler, Wadsworth (played by a woman, Emily Steward, superb with a British accent), and served by French maid Yvette (Presley A. Wheeler, convivial and agile).
Rob Duval, director, smartly maintains a brisk tempo, to keep the uncertainties bouncing like a ping pong ball.
Discomfort and suspicion rule, as the guests arrive, one by one, clueless about what will be in store. Their queasiness keeps the momentum going:
Professor Plum (Lee Nebe, a perfect off-kilter shrink).
Mr. Green (Malachi McSherry, a harried gay Republican).
Miss Scarlett (Shannon Winpenny, appropriately glorious and sexy).
Mrs. Peacock (Suzanne Green, hilarious as an alcoholic).
Mrs. White (Therese Olival, a multi-time divorcee).
Colonel Mustard (Mike Poblete, hilarious and somewhat of a dimwit).
Their host, Mr. Boddy (Ryan Phillips), is found dead when the lights go out.
Welcome to the quest to find out who the killer is. The ensemble of diners don’t bring appetites; they arrive with questions and doubts, seeking answers to bona fide questions. Are their Washington ties a clue to their unlikely invites?
Amid the fear and farcical mood, the cast consistently display skillful comedics, too. Antoinette Lilley as the cook shines and also turns in a memorable “Singing Telegram” delivery.
Since this is a farce, anything and everything can happen. Possible murder weapons appear (rope, pipe, candlestick), and the body count rises (hidden beneath a blanket on a couch, farcically become “props” in brisk living room poses).
Willie Sabel’s marvelous set gives breadth and breathing space—and allows many moments for manic running – with a full corridor on the second-tier wall of the theater — and lower pockets for communal chatter, races to and from secret and known doors. Notice the overhead chandelier, too, since it will have its moment of glory, too.
In a play with a blackout or two, Chris Gouveia’s lighting is spot-on bright, and coupled with Sarah Velaso’s sound design, the tech work shines, too.
Costumes by Maile Speetjens and hair and makeup by Lisa Ponce de Leon define the characters in the era of the Red Scare.
Paranoia prevails in the ranks; and perhaps in the audience, too. And even the clueless can enjoy the fun in “Clue.” I did.
Apparently, a few earlier productions of this work applied the “Edwin
Drood” element where the audiences help resolve the murderer. Not in this one, however.
What: A whodunnit farce, inspired by the board game “Clue,” adapted by Sandy Rustin from Jonathan Lynn’s screenplay, with additional material by Hunter Foster and Eric Price.
Where: Manoa Valley Theatre.
When: Opened Nov. 16; continues through Dec. 3; shows are at 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturday Dec. 2 and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; includes extended playdates.
Tickets: $25 to $48, at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35307/production/1151704 or (808) 988-6131.