Story: Six guests are invited to a dinner party at a stately, secluded mansion, home of the mysterious Mr. Boddy. The roster includes stiff-upper-lip military man Colonel Mustard, sultry madam Miss Scarlet, the slightly daffy Professor Plum, the stuffy businessman’s wife Mrs. White, vapid and frazzled Mrs. Peacock and St. Louis County government employee Mr. Green.
They are greeted by the host’s butler, Wadsworth, who gives each of them the above-mentioned parlor names to conceal their true identities. He then takes them on a whirlwind tour of the premises before they sit down to eat in the spacious dining room, where they are waited on by Wadsworth and the comely maid, Yvette.
Mr. Boddy surprisingly enters as a seventh guest, but Wadsworth quickly informs the others that Boddy has been the one blackmailing each of them. Wadsworth hands a different weapon to each of the first six guests, suggesting that Boddy be murdered. When the lights unexpectedly go off, a shot is fired, and Boddy’s apparently lifeless corpse is discovered once electricity is restored.
But is he really dead? There appears to be no actual cause of death. In short order the group is visited by the ill-fated cook as well as a motorist who approaches the home in search of help after her vehicle stalls on the road. Not to mention a tap-dancing telegram girl, a police officer and, hey, was that an evangelist at the door?
It’s a weird time at the Boddy mansion in England in 1926, or rather New England in 1954, make that St. Louis County in 2019 and disregard the antique telephone. What’s important is determining who killed whom in what room and with which weapon. But does anyone really have a ‘clue’?
Highlights: SATE begins its 13th year, The Season of Ritual, with a fitfully funny parody of the1985 mystery comedy movie Clue and the classic 1949 board game of the same name on which it was based. Director Katy Keating keeps the wacky antics going full throttle, deliciously delivered by her inspired ensemble and their fevered performances.
Other Info: The silly anachronisms in the timeline are a comic paean to TV’s wondrous series, Timeless, as well as an affectionate tribute to the beloved board game first introduced in in England as Cluedo but known in North America as Clue.
For your additional pleasure there’s a humorous opening to the play in the guise of a movie, with appropriate credits and even a fun musical score provided by sound designer Ellie Schwetye. Filmed on location at judiciously selected area settings that segues neatly into the 'live' action.
Bess Moynihan’s scenic design features a fun Clue-style board in the background as well as a smattering of doors through which players enter and exit with considerable comic timing and flair to boot. Moynihan and Rachel Tibbetts add several amusing props, including cardboard drinks and that ancient telephone in a drawing room.
Costume designer Liz Henning decks everyone out in appropriately-hued dress or vampish attire for Mrs. White and Miss Scarlet, a sexy outfit for Yvette and trench coat for the constable. Paul Cereghino contributes original music, which blends with Schwetye’s sound design to deliver a background score that stylistically covers the entire board.
Ben Lewis adds the fun lighting, Ryan Lawson-Maeske contributes amusing fight choreography and stage manager Summer Baer joins in the humor when she’s periodically summoned into the action.
The news release alludes to a “parody,” “spoof,” “send-up,” “take-off,” “lampoon” and sundry other nouns to describe the goings-on concocted by director Keating, who is credited with conceiving the inspired madness along with Michael Cassidy Flynn. The latter is in fine frenzied form as the bullying butler Wadsworth, who orchestrates his measured mayhem with calculated and cunning calibration.
Flynn is the ringmaster for this circus of chaos, giving a marvelous turn as the fast-talking and quicker-thinking gentleman’s gentleman, who is always a step and a syllable ahead of the audience. He is ably assisted by a top-notch ensemble which features Kristen Strom as the fetching but deadly Yvette, Moynihan as the constable on patrol (cop) and ill-starred singing telegram girl and Marcy Wiegert as the tough-talking cook and unfortunate motorist.
The guests, most of whom revel in their misdeeds and moral turpitude, include Carl Overly Jr. as the war-profiteering Colonel Mustard, Schwetye as the icy Mrs. White, Tibbetts as screaming banshee Mrs. Peacock, Will Bonfiglio as the logical and largely ignored Mr. Green, Cereghino as the easily flustered Professor Peacock, Maggie Conroy as the amiable and always available Miss Scarlet and Reginald Pierre as the menacing Mr. Boddy.
Or is he really Mr. Boddy? Everything happens so haphazardly and at such a dizzying pace that one isn’t really sure who the villain or villains are, who killed whom where and why, save Wadsworth's reasoned explanations for various scenarios. There’s trouble in the conservatory and the lounge and the kitchen and the dining room and the hall and everywhere, it seems, but that’s not important right now.
What matters most is that Classic Mystery Game does justice both to the film and to the original board game while also treading into the territory of “the failure of capitalism in a climate-changing world”?
Nah, it's just an evening of fun and frolic. Enjoy at your own risk, if you dare.
Play: Classic Mystery Game
Company: SATE (Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble)
Venue: The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive
Dates: February 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16
Tickets: $15-$20; contact www.brownpapertickets.com or 827-5760
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Joey Rumpell