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Clue lives up to its theatrical legacy

If you liked Clue, the movie, you'll love Clue, The Musical. And if you've had a lobotomy recently, you stand an excellent chance of being entertained down to the marrow by both.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Clue is cursed with a senseless and insulting script and songs that simply suck, uniformly and consistently. The logic of the play has very little to do with the game, and aside from a couple of spirited performances by suspects turned into hilarious caricatures, there is little for cast and crew to work with to elevate the material anywhere near the level of expectations raised by familiarity with the game, or by the basic tenets of musical theater, for that matter.

The play lives in a limbo between interactive mystery theater and a self-reflexive spoof of board games, never committing in either direction for more than a line or two at a time. There is really no interactive element. The "mystery" is completely extraneous to the play, and solving it is a matter of listening to Mr. Boddy tell the audience a series of "clues" at the end of each scene, which are often as blatant as "Mrs. Peacock, Colonel Mustard, rope, the lounge: none of these are worth considering." In one of the great missed opportunities of the stage, the script takes little advantage of the opportunity to spoof the board game "genre." One of the few good jokes in the comedy comes when a bumbling detective enters the scene in the second act. She is so superfluous to the plot that she is accused of being a "lost token from Sorry."

The best thing about the production--aside from an unwarranted but welcome time-consuming indulgence in Stansbery's extravagant sets--is the valiant attempt the cast makes at bringing some entertainment value to the play. The performances are bold, with each member of the ensemble stepping precariously out onto a limb in risky, courageous performances. Paul T. Forsett tries to bring charisma to Mr. Boddy, but despite being onstage for virtually the entire play, the character is dead and has no plausible function other than to scowl. It would be a great part for a great actor if it were a great part.

JaNae Ottosen adds a spark to the role of Mrs. Peacock, accentuating the role with Elvis' patented gyrating hips and an endless supply of leg kicks. Ottosen also choreographed the show, and she is able to help each actor find a distinctive way of expressing character through movement, sacrificing synchronicity for individual interpretation. "Corridors and Halls" is a playfully surreal dance number and one of the few highlights of the evening.

The play, and perhaps more importantly the legacy of the game, is salvaged by Papillon Sorrelis and Anthony Hughes as Colonel Mustard and Mrs. White, proving that stellar performances can result in bearable moments scattered throughout the evening. Sorrelis brings excellent instincts for physical comedy to the role of Mustard, overflowing with bravado in an over-the-top, over-caffeinated Teddy Roosevelt-esque exaggeration that adroitly blends character with physicality. Hughes shares Sorrelis' propensity for stealing scenes, infusing Mrs. White with an inescapable stage presence, confidently exuding the character's subtext of gender confusion and awkward grace.

The visual appeal of the production and the cartoon-come-to-life quality of its best performances make it appealing and entertaining for younger audiences. For everyone else, even the opportunity to immerse oneself in frivolous fluff doesn't justify the play's failure to redeem itself through music, lyrics, logic or laughter.

-- Owen Perkins

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