Melodramatic Mystery

ACE’s Clue: The musical

Jenny Parks and Alex Holmes in ACE’s Clue: The musical
Jenny Parks and Alex Holmes in ACE’s Clue: The musical

How is it the board game Clue has so captured our imaginations? One would never consider creating a film out of Chutes and Ladders, and I can feel my eye start to twitch just thinking about what Monopoly: The Musical might look like.

But a dramatization of Clue? We’re so there. The who-done-it game has inspired stage and screen adaptations, and Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene’s current production focuses the energy on the 1993 musical for dinner theater fare.

In Clue, the audience is invited to play the game as the drama unfolds. Replicas of the detective’s notes are passed out, and audience members are invited on stage to blindly select a weapon, a room and a murderer. There are 216 possible outcomes to Clue. The fun in this show lies in trying to figure out the mystery and watching the play shift and adjust itself to predict the outcome.

The script, by Joseph DiPietro, is somewhat flawed. Because much of the dialogue and music are fixed, it’s difficult to build drama towards one particular motive for murder. Clues are dropped through clever narration, but much of the action takes place regardless of who did what in which room with any particular weapon. The second half of the play is significantly funnier than the first.

But in the hands of ACE, Clue makes for perfect dinner theater. The audience is highly engaged, comparing notes over cheesecake at intermission and competing with tablemates as they enter their final decisions.

Anthony Krall is master of melodrama as Mr. Boddy. Christine Hanks adroitly handles the detective’s Dragnet-inspired lines. Eric Blanchard rolls out a clever Mr. Green. The music was interesting and the cast handled it with precision.

When I played Clue as a child, the setting of a glamorous mansion with secret passageways allowed my imagination to spin past the flat surface of the board, and family members seated around the table morphed into posh characters with a desire to kill. ACE takes that experience and animates it in style.

Clue: The Musical runs through June 13 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene; $16-$27, tickets at 683-4368.