Mercury Theater’s CLUE is a comedic delight of a production. The laughs flow freely and easily in this stage adaptation of the farce-meets-murder-mystery based on the iconic 1985 film by Jonathan Lynn and Sandy Rustin, with new material from Hunter Foster and Eric Price, and original music from Michael Holland. Director L. Walter Stearns’s ensemble lands each and every moment, maximizing the laughs but maintaining the integrity. These actors understand the assignment of both farce and murder mystery: The characters in CLUE take themselves and the outrageous situations of the play deeply seriously, and the ensemble finds the comedy in playing those truths. It’s a near masterclass in how farce should be performed. The fact that the play is only 90 minutes also means the stage adaptation doesn’t overstay its welcome: There’s just enough time to set up the mystery, play the antics, and send audiences home after a delightful, hilarious time.
As befits the genre, Bob Knuth’s set design involves many doors, secret passages, and falling objects that are the physical embodiment of farce. Knuth’s set also makes the most of Mercury’s intimate stage with immensely clever set transformations and surprises. Marquecia Jordan’s costume designs include the bright and iconic colors associated with the characters of CLUE. G. “Max’ Maxin IV’s lighting and Kur Snieckus’s sound design also add to the comedic and ever so slightly creepy atmosphere.
While audience members may be familiar with the 1985 movie and the Hasbro board game, the ensemble’s spot-on performances add an immediacy and a freshness to the material. Mark David Kaplan is a sly anchor as Wadsworth, the butler who welcomes the six mysterious blackmailed guests to CLUE’s dinner party. Jonah Winston demonstrates that he’s an expert at farce as Colonel Mustard; he leans into the character’s daftness but makes clear that the Colonel is truly trying his best. Nancy Wagner nicely plays the frazzled Mrs. Peacock, underscoring the character’s desire to appear perfectly innocent in one moment, while sneaking sips from a flask in the next. Erica Stephan nails the alluring energy of Miss Scarlet without overdoing it; she plays the character’s glitz and snark without making her into too much of a seductress. It’s a fine line to balance, but Stephan knows just how to do it. McKinley Carter is magnificently dry as Mrs. White and has stellar timing. Kelvin Roston, Jr. is likewise well-suited to portray the harried Mr. Green. Andrew Jessop finds a balance between slick and goofy for Professor Plum. Tiffany T. Taylor has a great twist on the classic “French Maid” trope as Yvette, and her line deliveries are precisely timed. Patrick Byrnes and Andrew MacNaughton take on the more “straight man” roles in the ensemble; for that reason, their performances aren’t stand outs, but their presences are necessary to contrast with the main players. Honey West has fantastic moments as the Cook and “Singing Telegram,” which is without a doubt one of the most memorable scenes from the film.
CLUE is tremendous, old-fashioned fun, and the ensemble gives their all to discovering who did it, where, and with what weapon. Even if you’ve seen the movie, Mercury’s production will have you both laughing out loud and thoroughly engaged as the mystery unfolds.
CLUE plays Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 North Southport, through January 1, 2023. Tickets are $35-$85. Visit MercuryTheaterChicago.com.
Photo Credit: Liz Lauren
Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com