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.