It was Professor Plum in the kitchen with the candlestick. Or was it Colonel Mustard in the study with the wrench? Or was it Miss Scarlet in the lounge with the rope?
Minnesota State’s theater department this week presents “Clue,” the play based on the popular board game that was launched in 1943. The game inspired the 1985 movie of the same name, and the movie inspired the play.
Why is it being performed in Mankato? Director Matthew Caron saw one of his students act out a scene from it.
“For our mainstage season, we usually try to do shows that have some sort of draw, a name recognition. And with ‘Clue,’ we’ve got the board game that goes back to World War Two and then the movie in the 80s,” said Caron. “It’s got that name recognition. It’s fun. It’s a murder mystery farce. It’s got amalgamation there, so we thought it’d be great.”
“Clue” begins at a remote mansion, where six mysterious guests gather at Boddy Manor for an unusual dinner party featuring murder and blackmail on the menu. When their host is found dead, they all become suspects. Hunter Conrad plays Wadsworth, the butler and said this role is a lot different than his past roles at MSU. He said it’s also one of his most challenging.
“I think I counted about 300 lines to memorize, so I’m always looking over my scripts whenever I have a down moment because there are so many lines, and a lot of them repeat in different orders,” said Conrad. “The script was written for jokes to line up. So if I miss a cue or a line, it messes everything else up.”
Jacob Haen plays Mr. Green, an anxious man who doesn’t know why he’s been called to Mr. Boddy’s house. Haen said he grew up playing the board game, so being in this show feels nostalgic.
“It’s fun. I didn’t know the movie until just this year. I’ve never seen it. So seeing the board game come to life and being a part of that is exciting,” said Haen. “It’s funny. It’s going to be fun. It does a really good job of bringing the board game and the characters that you know and are familiar with to life.”
Conrad said his favorite moment in the show is being able to be with his friends and getting to act with them. He also said that there’s a moment at the end of the play where he gets to improv his lines. The scene is Wadsworth explaining the events in the first half of the play to the guests and the audience in seven minutes. He’s running around on stage and said he’s having a great time doing it.
“We always try to find new and interesting ways to make each other break on stage. My favorite part of the actual show is I have this whole scene at the end with a lot of improv bits,” said Conrad. “So every night, I can change it if I want to, and I just go off the walls and create crazy, crazy energy.”
Haen said his favorite part about the play is where all the characters run around on stage, screaming.
“We each find a different place on the stage, and we scream three times. Each time we scream, we’re in our different-colored lights. For example, I play Mr. Green, so I have the green light,” said Haen. “We then run to another shot, scream and then run to another one. It’s a lot of fun.”
Caron said this play was a bit tricky to do as, in the film, they have camera angles and shots of people running into different rooms. But with a small stage, they have to work around that.
“You can’t create nine rooms in a mansion easily, and so we’ve come up with some creative solutions, rotating set pieces and flying set pieces and sometimes even just simply a light shift that shows us these different rooms,” said Caron. “The guests scamper from the study to the billiard room to the kitchen, back to the study, and then out to the conservatory, so they’re moving all the time.”
Caron said he has had fun working on this show and encourages students to come and see the show. He said that while working on this show, he got swept up in the goofiness of the cast.
“I think they’re going to really love it. It’s going to be fun. Even if they’ve never seen the film from the 80s, I suggest that they go watch the movie because then they’ll recognize a lot of the things that are happening in the play, but you don’t need to know the movie at all to understand what’s going on,” said Caron.
The show features BFA candidate and pianist Finnola Coughlin, who helps set the scenes. She adds extra comedic tones to the show by playing notes on the piano that are synchronized with lines from the play.
Conrad said this show wouldn’t happen without the stagehands working behind the scenes to ensure everything goes smoothly.
“Everyone is working so hard to get the show on its feet. We wouldn’t be able as actors to do what we do without everybody else,” said Conrad.
“Clue” runs 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15-16 and 22-24, and 2 p.m. Feb. 17, 24 and 25 in the Ted Paul Theatre at the Earley Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are available at mnsueventtickets.universitytickets.com or the box office from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Write to Lauren Viska at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header Photo: Mrs. Peacock (Phyllis Horridge), Yvette (Bex Williams) and Wadsworth (Hunter Conrad) play out a scene in the show, “Clue.” (Nate Tilahun/The Reporter)