Who said Southern California Theater Companies have ‘no clue’ these days?! As more of them are embarking on the serious business of welcoming audiences back into their venues for LIVE entertainment, now “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” in La Mirada California is proudly doing the same with the first presentation of their 2021-2022 season—the West Coast Premiere of “Clue”! Produced in association with McCoy-Rigby Entertainment, this fast-paced gothic send-up of all those enthralling Agatha Christie or Raymond Chandler thrillers, is based on the classic “Parker Brothers” parlour game—and most specifically, as it served as the inspiration of Jonathan Lynn’s screenplay for the 1985 cult-hit movie. This new adaptation for the stage was written by Sandy Rustin, with additional material by Hunter Foster and Eric Price. On Opening, Night, Producer Tom McCoy fairly beamed greeting ‘First-Nighters’ back to the place all would admit they’d been away from for far too long. “Let me be official,” he proclaimed just before the houselights dimmed: “Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen—and WELCOME BACK!!!” After introducing perhaps their most “Special Guest” for the event— Ms. Rustin the show’s Playwright, from the audience, McCoy further described this latest production as “A One-Act E-Ticket ride”; what followed next, is not a musical as many may have assumed, but instead, a ‘dead-on’ screw-ball comedy.
Performed sans intermission, this may be based on a board game, but it’s anything but boring! In time-honored ‘film noir’ tradition, the events all unfold on one fittingly “dark and stormy night”. The year is 1955 at the height of the Eisenhower Presidency—a time when “The Red Scare” and Communist ‘Witch Hunts’ were a very real threat to a suspected person’s reputation and livelihood. Against this backdrop, six guests have been invited (or more precisely put, ‘summoned’,) to a very unusual dinner party at the sumptuous “Boddy Estate” (–“A Mansion of Epic Proportions and Terrifying Secrets!”) just outside of Washington D.C. You see, along with the Shark-Fin soup, treachery, secrets, blackmail—and yes, even murder–are on the menu when these so-called “guests” assemble at the Manor for a night they’ll never forget!
Intensifying the intrigue is how, upon entry, each are told that rather than using their ‘real’ names, they will be referred to under an assigned pseudonym referencing the technicolor spectrum in some way (ostensibly, they’re told, to ‘protect their privacy’!) There’s “Mrs. Peacock” –a “just-this-side-of-dithery” Senator’s wife, who is accused of taking bribes for him. As played by Mary Birdsong, this vacuous would-be Political ‘Power-Hostess’, is given some of the scripts’ very best and most side-splitting lines. Happily, she is richly up to the task–giving over her share of huge laughs: “I don’t smoke!” she objects haughtily, when offered a cigarette (right before taking a toke on her own personal hip flask.) Heather Ayers also does a superlative job as the imperious, cool-as-a-cucumber “Mrs. White”—a ‘serial’ newlywed whose numerous husbands have, by all accounts, met with suspicious ends (“How many husbands have you had?” the group confronts her with; “Mine, or other women’s?” she purrs in reply.) Sarah Hollis too, shines as the sultry ‘never let ‘em see you sweat’ ‘woman in charge’, “Miss Scarlett”, the proprietress of an underground brothel catering to many Washington area ‘insiders’; while Ted Barton’s “Professor Plum” is a second-rate academic who says he lost his medical license after a ‘scandalous’ affair with one of his patients, (but in due course, it becomes obvious he can’t tell a stethoscope from a bike tire-pump!) Moreover, Harrison White is another standout as the frequently befuddled “Colonel Mustard”. All appearances aside though, our man in the trenches, we discover, is suspected of War Profiteering, and even if, at the outset, his “Colonel” doesn’t strike you as the brightest bulb in the chandelier, that doesn’t stop him from comparably getting—and marvelously imparting–some of the funniest lines (“I struggle with nuance” he declares wistfully at one point.) Lastly, there’s John Shartzer’s dashing (but as inept as the rest of them,) “Mr. Green”: A Gay and unrepentant Republican (pretty shocking for the era—being gay that is, not so much the Republican part.)
Also on hand are the ‘residents’ of the Manor, led by Jeff Skowron, who handily triumphs in every scene with pristine comic timing, as the ever-so-proper, (–but not above his share of off-beat or sarcastic wise-cracks–) “Wadsworth”, Boddy Manor’s Butler and Major Domo. Overhearing the assemblage discussing what their plans regarding “Mr. Boddy” must be “over the long haul,” Wadsworth inanely agrees: “It is a long hall” he explains, “–but this is a very large place!” An odd cross between “Cabaret’s” vaguely sinister “Emcee” and the upright Criminologist/Narrator in “Rocky Horror”, he basically runs…uh…everything! However, beyond simply keeping things humming, we soon learn that he too, may not be all that he appears to be! His counterparts when in the thick of much of the evening’s antics are Cassie Simone as the coquettish ‘French Maid’ “Yvette” and Rachel McLaughlan as “Cook”, the household’s…um, “Cook”. Even her initial entrance (–brandishing a meat cleaver–) is both disarming and darkly funny at the same time. Michael Cavinder too, is a presence to be reckoned with as the doomed swindler, “Mr. Bobby Boddy” (“Your host for the evening, your blackmailer for life!” as “Wadsworth” describes him to the evening’s participants.) Cavinder also takes on the additional role(s) of the Police Chief who arrives…well, maybe not so much in the ‘nick of time’–but he does manage to get there and always with a fresh moniker when he finally does, like “Chief Max Emum”, “Chief Mark Mywords” etc. (—and it goes on…)
After dinner is when we’re at last informed ‘The game is afoot’—and we learn that despite this “Boddy” character being a Big-Wig in the “House Un-American Activities Committee”, none of those gathered are being ‘Black-Listed’, but instead ‘Black-Mailed’! It turns out that, although strangers on the face of it, the evening’s invitees do have a few things in common—for starters, they’re all (give or take) fairly well connected in some of Washington’s most rarified political circles; secondly: “Mr. Boddy” claims to be in position of material, which if revealed, can lead to their ruin. Upon introducing himself, the host gifts them each with a box containing assorted paraphernalia that can be taken as “murder weapons” (I.E. one gets a loaded revolver, another a knife, another a rope…the kinds of items anyone even the least bit familiar with the game are well acquainted with.) Later when “Boddy’s” body turns up dead (the apparent victim of having a lead-pipe lodged into his cranium) this ‘clue-less coterie’ come together to ascertain their goals—the primary one being to search the house to find the evidence their now late extortionist had on all of them, then (if they have time) to find his murderer. This leads to a buoyant “Scooby-Doo” like chase sequence thrown into the midst once they decide to ‘split up’ to search the residence for the damning material which they’re all so desperate to be rid of. Before the evening is done, the victims will pile up one after the other: six in total —and with six, supposedly different murderers! In addition to “Mr. Boddy”, there’s the Cook, a hapless motorist who breaks down near the estate looking to use the phone—even a bubbly gal delivering a singing telegram. (Each are dispatched via a disparate method using one of the various, previously supplied ‘weapons’—and NO ONE is innocent among this bunch!) Was it Mrs. Peacock in the study with the knife? Colonel Mustard in the library with the wrench? Maybe it was neither–Or possibly, both! Rest assured, audience members are kept guessing until the final twist (or really, several of them!) “It’s all a part of the game” we’re advised at length.
Rightly hailed as the “ultimate whodunit that will leave you ‘dying’ of laughter”, the story is at its most humorous when it references—or even mocks–its source material (Take for example, how at one point, while our heroes are desperately searching the cavernous Chȃteau for the enigmatic “Evidence”, the ‘map’ one of them pulls out to guide him through the legion of rooms is actually an authentic “Clue” game board!) Infused with plenty of quick-witted word play, Rustin’s script also provides surprises aplenty around every corner (–and does this place ever have an abundance of them!) Directed by Casey Hushion, in the finest tradition of the art form, her focus suitably opts for a fairly rapid (at times even manic,) pace and perhaps even more satisfactorily, she doesn’t shy away from throwing a few jabs of pure slapstick buffoonery into the mix. She also manages to incorporate some nifty scene changes frequently having the cast mime running in place while the backdrops of the multifarious rooms in this disquieting abode merely lower into place behind them.
The Set design by Lee Savage is comprised of just the right combination of workable set pieces and vibrant flats representing hallways and other ‘minor’ rooms, while giving us an excellent taste of stately “Belle Epoch” grandeur (or would it be pomposity?) He also shrewdly incorporates an extra touch of shadowy corners, thus helping spectators to stay in that “what’s coming next” anticipation (Plus, you just gotta love all that ersatz ‘19th Century drawing-room’ “wallpaper”—velvety reds, greens, he’s got ‘em all!) Not to be overlooked either is how, in lieu of a formal curtain, audience members entering the auditorium are greeted by an expansive ‘framed’ portrait of the ‘Boddy Family Manse’ (—an architectural extravaganza of Victorian excess, and a kind of “scenic exclamation point” to all of Savage’s efforts.) Completing—and enhancing—his efforts is the often-eerie ‘mood lighting’ (including the ‘striking’ “Lightening Effects) provided by Steven Young. Jen Caprio’s Costume designs also delightfully capture the feel of ‘upscale’ mid-1950’s couture—sometimes playing up the color-theme of the character’s name, as with “Miss Scarlett’s” shocking red cocktail dress, or “Mr. Green’s” touches of a Kelly-green tie and matching pocket square”–not to mention “Mrs. Peacock’s” Lavender frock with matching purple lace overlay (and a feathered hat that categorically defies simple explanation!) For others, she keeps in direct opposition to it as in the case of “Mrs. White’s” ensemble, which sees her clad in pure black all through the goings-on. Then there’s the matter of “Mr. Boddy’s” stunning white shoes in contrast to his sporty black “Brooks Brothers” suit! All the while, punctuating all the going-on is the original music by Michael Holland. Done mostly in iconic “Sturm And Drang” or even “Hitchcockian” style—it definitely adds a bonus dose of both vibrance and dread throughout, by playing on our emotions and adding to our overall enjoyment whether we’re fully conscious of it or not.
Having ‘officially’ opened on Saturday, September 25, 2021, “Clue” is set to play through Sunday October 17th, 2021, at “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd.in La Mirada CA. In accordance with current County and State Public Health Covid-19 safety protocols (which necessitate that venues with a capacity of more than 1,000–such as “The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts” is,) Patrons for this engagement will be required to furnish “Proof of Full Vaccination” (either a physical ‘vaccination card’, a legible picture of their vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record,) or a Negative Covid-19 Test taken within 72 hours of their attendance, in order to enter into the Theater. Likewise, regardless of age, all Ticket holders must wear masks while indoors.
Are you game enough for an amazing LIVE-On Stage experience to figure out Whodunnit? Now’s your chance at “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” where this “Clue” will have you ‘Dead-To-Rights’! Showtimes are Thursday Evenings at 7:30 PM, Friday and Saturday Evenings at 8:00 PM, with Saturday Matinees at 2:00 PM, and Sunday Matinees at 1:30 PM, while on Sunday Evenings, the curtain rises at 6:30 PM. (On Saturday Afternoon October 9th at 2:00 PM., there will be an ‘Open Captioned” performance, while ‘Talkbacks” with the cast and creative team will be held after final curtain on Thursday September 30th and Thursday, October 14th) Tickets may be obtained by visiting the “La Mirada Theatre” Box-Office, On-Line at www.lamiradatheatre.com , or by Phone at: (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310. Group discounts are available for this engagement as well as Reduced-Price “Student” tickets. (The Box Office is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 AM until 5:30 PM; Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 Noon until 4:00 PM and closed on non-performance Sundays. On performance days, the Box Office will remain open until one half hour after curtain.)
Production Stills By Jason Niedle, Courtesy Of Demand PR (www.demandpr.com) And McCoy-Rigby Entertainment; Special Thanks To David Elzer At Demand PR, Tom McCoy, Cathy Rigby, Casey Hushion, Sandy Rustin & To The Cast & Crew Of “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” & McCoy-Rigby Entertainment’s 2021 West Coast Premiere Production Of “Clue” For Making This Story Possible.