It’s the Parker Brothers’ world, and we’re just living in it.
So goes the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Royal MTC)’s playful, theatrical take on the classic mystery board game Clue.
Written by actor and award-winning playwright Sandy Rustin, the Royal MTC production is one of more than 3,000 theatrical adaptations of director Jonathan Lynn’s film Clue worldwide.
The six original characters – Miss Scarlet (Reena Jolly), Mrs. Peacock (Sharon Bajer), Prof. Plum (Derek Scott), Mrs. White (Petrina Bromley), Col. Mustard (Beau Dixon) and Mr. Green (Toby Hughes) – are cast as a fashionable crew of social climbers in Washington, D.C. Placing them in the political and historical centre of the McCarthy era sets the tone for an evening of decadent lies and twisted affairs.
The play welcomes the six dinner guests into host Mr. Boddy’s (Alex Furber), luxurious manor. Unbeknownst to them, it would soon become a site of blood and blackmail. After dinner, Wadsworth (Jesse Gervais), Mr. Boddy’s butler, reveals the guests have been blackmailed by their host.
Locking the doors, Mr. Boddy throws his guests into a Big Brother-style murder mystery. Gifting each of them a weapon, he asserts that the only way out is to play his game by eliminating his butler.
But when the lights go out and shots are fired, things don’t go as planned. As the guests separate into pairs to search for clues across the manor, death never leaves the doorstep.
Staying true to the classic board-game layout, the characters travel through a rotating set of rooms. From the zebra-skinned lounge to the study with a floor-to-ceiling literature display and a secret, revolving bookcase, the interiors alone evoke childlike fascination. As audiences lose sight of select floors, they’re left to fill a mental game sheet of what may be happening behind closed doors.
For a game premised on mystery, the script could take on more of it. References to contemporary times are sprinkled in each scene, with some landing and others going over the crowd’s heads. Nonetheless, each exceptionally talented cast member embraces their role to the highest extent.
Moreover, producing a thrilling play within the creative confines of a ubiquitous board game is no simple task. Clue is to be commended for its ability to push beyond the tired clichés of murder mysteries while staying true to the colours and aesthetics of the nostalgic brand. Though occasionally campy, it is never tacky.
As the cast presents their final alibis, one brave character temporarily escapes the Parker Brothers’ universe by breaking the fourth wall. Whether future audiences will have the pleasure of being solicited for donations by Gervais in Wadsworth’s clothes, like the game, remains a mystery.
Tickets to the Royal MTC’s production of Clue, on now until Nov. 11, can be purchased at bit.ly/40aH4Cc. Discounted tickets are still available for audience members under 30.
Published in Volume 78, Number 07 of The Uniter (October 26, 2023)