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‘Clue’: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Gun. No, it was Mrs. White in the Kitchen with a Rope. No, It Was...

NEWS | FEATURES | PREVIEWS | EVENTS

By Bruce Chadwick


originally published: 02/04/2022

‘Clue’: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Gun. No, it was Mrs. White in the Kitchen with a Rope. No, It Was...

You’ve played the board game ‘Clue.’ Everybody, at some point in their life, has played the wildly popular game invented in 1944 and played by tens of millions of mystery lovers ever since.

In ‘Clue,’ you try to find out who the murderer is, in what room in an elegant old mansion the crime was committed and how did the killer did it – gun, rope, knife?.

‘Clue’ has entertained people all over the world for 78 years. It has been a movie, a game show and a dinner theater extravaganza. Now it is a play at the Paper Mill Playhouse, in Millburn.

‘Clue’: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Gun. No, it was Mrs. White in the Kitchen with a Rope. No, It Was...

I have no clue how they rewrote the game and made it into a play, but they did a really fine job. This play is a delightful mystery, romp, farce and spoof all rolled into one, a sweet, delicious, ice cream sundae of a murder mystery with a busload of alleged killers, the killers all gallivanting around a Washington D.C. suburban mansion in 1954, the Red Scare/Joe McCarthy era.

The play takes you on a roller coaster ride as you try to count up the dead bodies and try to figure out who killed them.



 
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The setting for the story - we have a half dozen or so suspects, all invited to this old mansion worthy of a black and white Dracula movie, for some reason. The intrigue starts right way when we learn that all of them, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and an assortment of others, are using fake names. They also know each other somehow. Each also seemed to know what suspect is involved in what political scandal.

Hmmmmmmmnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn……………..

All of them work with Wadsworth, the butler, to crack the case. Throughout the play, new suspects arrive and so do passersby, men looking for a phone, and lots of police (or are they?).

‘Clue’: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Gun. No, it was Mrs. White in the Kitchen with a Rope. No, It Was...

The play, based on the 1985 movie script by Jonathan Lynn, the 1944 board game inventor, writers Hunter Foster, Eric Price and Sandy Rustin, with music by Michael Holland, is designed to make everybody in the audience try to name the killer. That single goal keeps all intent on doing so after following the plot carefully. That is the mystery glue that holds ‘Clue’ together.

The board game was invented by a British musician named Anthony Pratt, a crime aficionado who was a big detective fiction fan. He did so, aided by his wife Elva, on his dining room table. Pratt sold the game to Parker brothers (now owned by Hasbro).  You would think Pratt made a fortune off the game, right? Wrong. Sales were very slow at first and when he sold it to Parker Brothers, he only received about $5,000 in today’s money, He didn’t have a clue.

Paper Mill has staged ‘Clue’ on a marvelous dark, old mansion set that just about creaks when you look at it. When you walk into the theater you hear a relentless pounding rain on the ceiling and shake a bit as thunder smashes against your ears. Ironically, I saw the play on Thursday when there was a real bad rainstorm, and hellacious fog, rolling through New Jersey that was scarier than the theater’s storm.

‘Clue’: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Gun. No, it was Mrs. White in the Kitchen with a Rope. No, It Was...

Director Casey Hushion has done good work in getting all of his actors to meld together as an ensemble cast. The only “star” of the show is the killer, whoever he/she may be. The performances of all of them are very impressive - Mark Price as Wadsworth, the Butler, John Treacy Egan as the blustery Colonel Mustard, Donna English as Mrs. White, Sarah Hollis as Miss Scarlet,  Kathy Fitzgerald, my favorite, as the wacky Mrs. Peacock,  Alex Mandell as Mr. Green and  Michael Kostroff as the irascible Professor Plum . Others in this highly talented cast are Isabelle McCalla, Graham Stevens and Kolby Kindle.

‘Clue’ is a very funny play. There are flashes of Monty Python and more flashes of the Marx Brothers. Oh, sure, we’ll throw in ‘Law and Order’, too. Some of the best scenes are the entire cast running in place to go somewhere (the audience howled every time they did so).

There are people being killed in both macabre and wondrous ways. There is a lot of drinking and a lot of scheming. It is the perfect murder mystery set in a mansion. You must remember that when the board game came out during the tail end of World War II, mansion mysteries (Agatha Christie’s novels) were the rage. ‘Clue’ was, and is, a good mansion murder mystery married to a board game.

‘Clue’: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Gun. No, it was Mrs. White in the Kitchen with a Rope. No, It Was...

Now, the whole play is upended in the last quarter, when the police and supects scramble to solve the murder. Who did do it? Gun, knife, rope? Wrench? Candle stick holder?

The last quarter zaniness needs to be kept track of because everything changes and quickly. There is an old saying that you need a scorecard to follow the action. Well, here at the Paper Mill’s ‘Clue’ you need ten scorecards and a few revolvers to follow action, which can be a bit much. Whew!



 
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So, who was the killer? I’ll spoil it for you by telling you now.

It was…………………………

‘Clue’: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Gun. No, it was Mrs. White in the Kitchen with a Rope. No, It Was...



PRODUCTION: The play is directed by Casey Hushion. The sound designer for the play is Matt Krause, the scenic designer is Lee Savage. The costumes are by Jen Caprio, Lighting is by Ryan J. O’Gara Hair and wig designer is by J. Jared Janas. The play runs through February 20. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.  Paper Mill Playhouse is located at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, New Jersey.

Photos by Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made



Bruce Chadwick worked for 23 years as an entertainment writer/critic for the New York Daily News. Later, he served as the arts and entertainment critic for the History News Network, a national online weekly magazine. Chadwick holds a Ph. D in History and Cultural Studies from Rutgers University. He has written 31 books on U.S. history and has lectured on history and culture around the world. He is a history professor at New Jersey City University.





EVENT CALENDAR

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The Wolves

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The Caretaker

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91 University Place, Princeton, NJ 08540
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Friday, September 30, 2022 @ 8:00pm
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Joey Skaggs: Metamorphosis, Cockroach Miracle Cure, Urania Leilus, The House, Panta Rei, The Hauntings of New Hope - Shorts Program - Online for 24 Hours and In Person at 7PM!

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The Caretaker

Friday, September 30, 2022 @ 8:00pm
Shakespeare Theatre Of NJ - F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre
36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
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