Russell Cooper in Clue
Clue: The Stay At Home Version
Adapted from the screenplay for the 1985 film by Jonathan Lynn with additional material by Hunter Foster, Sandy Rustin, and Eric Price
Directed by Jason Cooper
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Clue was a popular board game, then a movie that failed at the box office but developed a cult following through home video. Eventually, after years of unauthorized productions, the official stage adaptation appeared. Now The Chicken Coop Theatre Company brings it once again into your home.
Maybe that’s where Clue has always belonged; a cozy farce spoofing the classic locked-together-in-a-mansion mystery format pioneered by the great Agatha Christie that plays perfectly in your living room. The film script thoroughly exploits that notion by fashioning a narrative that parodies her work, in particular, And Then There Were None.
In light of the limitations of a live zoom format, it plays rather well here. A Narrator replaces the objective camera’s POV and their descriptions of the action relieve the expectation of more developed scenic design and lighting, so that the clever use of the board game layout as a background for the Butler, Maid, and Cook, and solid colors behind the other characters, while obvious: yellow for Colonel Mustard, red for Miss Scarlett, keep the focus on the performances.
And there is where director Jason Cooper has come a cropper, guiding a most capable cast through the silliness so effectively that the action is handed from screen to screen with surprisingly less loss in the cues and timing than you might expect. While mostly seen in head and shoulders frames, Cooper gooses his cast to push out of their boxes with slapstick moves expressing the very frustration they and we must be feeling at having a virtual experience when we are aching to be in a theatre together. The best was one character’s hilarious death scene in which their contorted face landed nearly flush to the screen.
But the go-for-broke staging was balanced by discipline of a kind. I won’t commend any dialect or voice characterization as authentic because they are all appropriately vaudeville. Beth Tantanella’s French maid Yvette was an especially rich burlesque, and Russell Cooper’s butler Wadsworth was a beautifully calculated mix of stuffy and irrepressible. It was a delight to see local pros Jennifer Poliskie (Mrs. Peacock), Jordan Price (Professor Plum), and Mike Slaton (Colonel Mustard) joyfully hamming it up and newer (to me anyway) faces Andrew Newton-Schaftlein (Mr. Green), and Maggie Patten (Miss Scarlett), while Bridget Thomas adroitly channeled Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White. Scott Goodman has a grand time pretending his Narrator is the straight man.
Are there technical glitches? You bet. Zoom still does poorly by the sound design outside of the dialogue but such shortcomings do not defeat the daft energy of this show. Am I forgiving too much because of the void where live theatre used to be? Can you blame me if I do? Yet, however virtual and glitchy, there is REAL talent and energy on display here, and good effort to overcome the limitations of the virtual format. But the zoom grid can be seen as just another game board for family night, and if you don’t take it too seriously, you just might have a blast.
With Kate Holland Ballowe, Russell Cooper, Ben Gierhart, Frank Goodloe, Scott Goodman, Chris Hartman (Dec. 2 only), Anthony Newton-Schaftlein, Maggie Patten, Jennifer Poliskie, Jordan Price, Carter Sanderson II, Mike Slaton, Jill Sullivan, Beth Tantanella, and Bridget Thomas
Clue: The Stay At Home Version
The Chicken Coop Theatre Company
December 2 & 3 @ 7:00 pm
December 4 & 5 @ 8:00 pm
Ticket Price – $10.00
For Tickets visit: www.thechickencooptheatre.com
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.