Guess Who Done It In This Fun Murder Mystery
Uh oh! The Body mansion is rife with sinister doings.
Warning: Pay attention. To who might do it, who will do it, and, well, who did it.
The fast-paced murder-mystery “Clue,” which debuted last Friday at The Gateway, pushes out the laughs nonstop, between people getting knocked off or about to be.
Six guests are invited to the mansion for a night out, and have no clue as to why they’re there. The butler, Wadsworth (the fabulous James Taylor Odom, but more about him later), directs the proceedings aided by Cook (Amy Persons), and maid, Yvette (Traci Bair). There’s a radio that drones on about the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings before the guests arrive, providing some of the 1950s background. When they enter, each one recognizes a fellow guest with a start, then ignores them, setting the stage for a “why did they do that?” scrutiny as they disappear in revolving rooms, react with arched eyebrows, pratfalls, and laugh-out-loud trumped-up situations.
The guests are all assigned aliases: Mrs. Peacock (a hilarious Sally Struthers) is a senator’s wife; Mrs. White (Jennifer Byrne) had five husbands who mysteriously died; Miss Scarlet (Emily Brockway) is the gorgeous, vampy madam; Colonel Mustard (Christopher Seiler) plays it optimistically naïve; Professor Plum (John Long) does research for the World Health Organization and wouldn’t make it in the “Me Too” era; and the gay—sort of—Mr. Green (David Engel) keeps falling down.
They all have secrets they don’t want revealed. And where is their host, Mr. Body (Travis Murad Leland in multiple roles)?
Struthers as Mrs. Peacock, with a fabulous Southern lilt (she got enthusiastic applause upon her entrance), dives right into her comedic role by draining a bowl of shark fin soup upside down. “Are you going to finish that?” she asks the guest next to her; then, without his answer, grabs the soup bowl and repeats the slurp. Watch her filch a cocktail from one of the deceased. Her comedic chops are evident throughout, including this one. Upon her return from the ladies’ room, she’s staggering with a dead body on her back.
After dinner, the guests are all handed gifts… instruments that can kill.
They’ve all been blackmailed, according to a letter announced by Wadsworth. And Mr. Body wants them to expose their secrets to each other. They’re then tasked with finding his killer.
There are too many gorgeously funny moments to mention, but here’s a couple in particular.
Watch Mrs. White canoodle a corpse as a ruse to back off the police while Mr. Plum manhandles Miss Scarlet. Or the slow-motion scene between Wadsworth and Mr. Green—it’s amazing. So is the finale. Applause to director Larry Rabin and production stage manager James. O. Hansen and assistant stage manager Rico Froehlich, for their skillfully choreographed placement; the actors even dance at one point.
This is one talented cast, who are all mostly “on” for an hour and a half. (All Actors Equity, all with significant credits.) And they get a workout, running from room to room as situations unfold. But Odom, a definite standout, probably heads to The Bellport after a performance to down at least two meals. He’s an arch, energetic butler personification, who keeps you guessing as he constantly dashes to different rooms all night.
Trust us. You will stay riveted to the end of this boisterously imaginative show.
A Fun Whodunit at The Gateway
Saturday night’s sold-out production of Clue at The Gateway had the audience bursting into spontaneous applause throughout the show and up on their feet for a rousing standing ovation at the end.
This farcical whodunit is based on the 1985 Paramount movie by Jonathan Lynn, which was inspired by the classic Hasbro board game, Clue. Sandy Rustin wrote the play adaptation, with additional source material by Eric Price and Hunter Foster.
This hilarious farce-meets-murder-mystery takes place on a dark and stormy night at Boddy Manor. Kelly J. Tighe’s innovative three-part revolving set enhanced the dizzying plot. Watching the suspects race around the eerie mansion, running in and out of the Hall, Kitchen, Ballroom, Billiard Room, Library, Study, Lounge, Conservatory, and Dining Room, was awe-inspiring.
Set in 1954, in the time of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, the plot revolves around six anxious dinner guests whose invite came in the form of a threatening letter. When their host turns up dead, they all become suspects. This show’s cartoonish, slapstick style calls for an ensemble with strong physical comedy skills, and the stellar cast brought their A-game to the production.
Led by Wadsworth, Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, and Colonel Mustard race to find the killer as the body count stacks up.
James Taylor Odom gave a tour-de-force performance as the proper British butler, Wadsworth. Toward the end of Act II, Mr. Odom’s longwinded but spot-on monologue concerning all the crazy shenanigans that had happened thus far had the audience roaring with laughter.
Sally Struthers, perhaps best known for her television role as Gloria in All in the Family, returned to Long Island to portray the neurotic, flaky, and hilariously funny Mrs. Peacock. Ms. Struthers, a two-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner, previously appeared at The Gateway in 9 to 5, Anything Goes, and Nice Work if You Can Get It. Her Broadway credits include Wally’s Café and Neil Simon’s female version of The Odd Couple. Ms. Struthers aptly displayed her comedic genius as Mrs. Peacock, the holier-than-thou wife of a senator. Ms. Struthers’s facial expressions and body language had the audience in stitches every time she stepped onstage, and some of the funniest laughs of the evening came from hearing Mrs. Peacock’s spontaneous bouts of uncontrollable potty mouth.
Emily Brockway, dressed to kill in a red, sparkling evening gown with a thigh-high slit up the side, gave an award-worthy performance as Miss Scarlet, a high-class Washington, D.C. call girl. Jennifer Byrne gave a memorable performance as Mrs. White, a high-strung widow who may or may not have murdered a few of her husbands.
John Long gave a nuanced performance as Professor Plum, and Christopher Seiler was riotously funny as the pompous but not too bright Colonel Mustard. David Engel, a strong character actor, was most believable as the timid Mr. Green, and his remarkable character transformation at the end of the play truly surprised the audience.
Traci Bair as the sexy French maid, Amy Persons as the Cook, Lukas Poost as the Cop, Maggie May as the Telegram Girl, and Travis Murad Leland as Mr. Boddy/Motorist all gave noteworthy performances.
With killer performances by the entire cast and technical designs to die for, this wonderfully wicked, wacky, and witty show is a must-see. Under the brilliant direction of Larry Raben, this farcical play held the audience spellbound right up to the zany ending.
CLUE – Gateway Playhouse – Theatre Review
Have you heard? There’s a murder afoot and it’s time to find out whodunnit! The production of Clue—based on the 1985 film, which was based on the classic board game—opened at Gateway Playhouse on Friday, March 17 and was a hilarious hit!
The story unfolds at Boddy Manor, a spooky, remote mansion, on a dark and stormy night. The butler Wadsworth (James Taylor Odom), the cook (Amy Persons), and the maid Yvette (Traci Bair) all scuttle about, preparing for company. The doorbell rings, and guests begin to arrive, each given a colorful code-name.
If you’ve played the game Clue, you probably know the guests by heart—Colonel Mustard, played by Christopher Seiler; Mrs. White, played by Jennifer Byrne; Mrs. Peacock, played by the legendary Sally Struthers; Ms. Scarlet, played by Emily Brockway; Professor Plum, played by John Long; and Mr. Green, played by David Engel.
Once they’re all gathered together, it’s very clear they all have one thing in common— none of them know why they’ve been asked to attend this strange party. However, after they meet their “host” for the evening, they discover quickly what really brings them together: blackmail and then, unfortunately for them, murder.
The chemistry of the group as a whole is electric, and each actor plays the caricature of their role well as they seek to get to the bottom of murder, after murder, after murder. Was it Professor Plum with the revolver? Or perhaps Mrs. White with the rope?
The script is full of hilarious wordplay, dialogue, and even choreographed running scenes (you’ll understand what I mean when you see it). Throughout the performance, not more than a minute goes by between laughter from the audience—especially in response to Struthers’ performance as Mrs. Peacock. Her monologue at dinner with the sharkfin soup had me in hysterical stitches!
Odom’s performance as Wadsorth the butler is impeccable. His witty responses to the guests were perfectly timed and delivered, and the synoptic monologue he delivers near the end of act two deserved a standing ovation.
The set, spectacularly designed, on the left and right sides spins like a carousel to create the illusion that the guests are walking through different parts of the mansion as they seek out the murderer.
Overall, the show draws you in the moment it begins and is deliciously entertaining to the last drop. Don’t look away for a second, or you just might miss the clue you need to solve the murder!
The Gateway’s ‘Clue’ Is a Fun, Farcical Whodunit
Following on the heels of screen-to-stage comedy The Wedding Singer, The Gateway is upping the antics with an even zanier play originating from a film — or rather, a board game — Clue. Written by Sandy Rustin with screenplay by Jonathan Lynn, this production of Clue is directed by Larry Raben and stars Sally Struthers of All in the Family and Gilmore Girls fame.
Like the film before it, Clue the play takes the characters and setting of the classic whodunit board game and weaves them into a story of 1954 McCarthyism, blackmail and, of course, murder. Set in the mansion of the shady Mr. Boddy, played by Travis Murad Leland, the game’s color-coded players are introduced by the butler of the manor, Wadsworth, portrayed by James Taylor Odom (more on him later). They are locked in for a night playing a murderous game, lest their darkest secrets be revealed.
First to arrive is the iconic Colonel Mustard, portrayed by Christopher Seiler. As the bumbling buffoon of the group, Mustard’s comedy stems from generally not understanding what’s going on around him, but Seiler takes this a step further with his charming eccentricity. A scene that highlights this perfectly is when the players are listening to a private conversation with glasses pressed to the door, and Mustard is just gleefully standing in the middle of the room looking clueless with a glass on each of his ears.
Next up is Mrs. White, portrayed by Jennifer Byrne. As the only character not wearing their assigned color, she dons a black dress instead, her wardrobe could be a hint to her possible “black widow” status — or the decision was made to help her stand out against the whites and grays of the monochromatic set. Out of all the houseguests, Mrs. White is the one most shrouded in mystery — with a dead husband and a history with the manor maid Yvette, played by Traci Bair. The way in which she reacts to things in the play is equally unpredictable, and Byrne plays it expertly.
When Struthers first enters the scene as Mrs. Peacock, the audience roars. With a sweet Southern charm and seemingly high moral standard, it quickly becomes clear that she’s all about keeping appearances, and when the façade fades, there’s no telling what she’ll say. She’s easily the funniest of the players, with most every line and antic met with a burst of laughter. Struthers effortlessly demonstrates why her career has been so successful for decades.
Shortly after introducing Mr. Green, portrayed by David Engel, to the audience, he’s outed as a closeted gay man, which during the concurrent Lavender Scare and Second Red Scare would be a worst-case scenario, were he not hiding an even more shocking secret. Comedy-wise, he’s the accident-prone one, often tripping over himself or having others fall on him. Whether pratfalling or sashaying across the stage, Engel showcases masterful physicality and is a joy to watch throughout the show.
Lastly, we’re introduced to Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet, played by John Long and Emily Brockway respectively. These two are played straighter than their fellow houseguests, while not straying too far from the play’s farce genre. The main source of farce-style humor, however, comes from the breakout character, Wadsworth, played to perfection by James Taylor Odom. Wadsworth easily steals the show, and though it feels odd to call a Clue character who doesn’t originate from the board game the “main character,” he easily is. Odom’s over-the-top portrayal would likely make the great Tim Curry, who played Wadsworth in the film, stand and applaud. Every line is delivered with a puzzling balance of absurdity and plot urgency, and his final scene — which is rumored to vary between showtimes — is a hysterical tour de force.
As mentioned, the set of Clue features a monochromatic esthetic inspired by Tim Burton. It’s split into three large revolving set pieces that transform the stage into several different rooms, with characters spun out of sight like the secret revolving doors frequently found in the mystery genre. At one point in the play, the characters actually move across the mansion via the Clue game board, which is far from the only reference to the original source material.
The play is littered with fun meta references to the board game: characters hurl accusations in the well-known “suspect in the room with the weapon” phrasing, they call out the game’s creators, and they sometimes roll metaphorical dice and hop between rooms like the game pieces being moved across the board. In the play’s final scene, all the answers to the whodunit are answered, and while you can probably suss out the killer if you’re paying attention, keep in mind that this screenplay is farce first, murder mystery second.
If you go into it too seriously, focusing on playing Nancy Drew and piecing together the clues before the big reveal, you’ll be cheating yourself out of enjoying the wacky, Scooby-Doo-esque hijinks and hilarious, cartoonish character portrayals. The Gateway’s Clue is a tightly choreographed, delightfully acted blast for fans of farce, comedy and a little mystery.