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SCPA's "Clue"

Review by Juli Russ, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team

Was it Mrs. Scarlet, in the library, with the candlestick? Or perhaps Professor Plum, in the hall, with the revolver! Maybe it was Colonel Mustard, in the lounge, with the wrench! In "Clue ," everyone has something to hide, everyone has a lot to lose, and nobody will be leaving the mansion quite the same as when they arrived. The School for the Creative and Performing Arts' production, highlighted by technical feats and complex character portrayals, successfully brought elements of humor and wit to this masterful murder mystery story.

Adapted for the stage by Jonathan Lynn, Hunter Foster, Eric Price, and Sandy Rustin from the classic whodunit board game, "Clue " includes the same main characters, the same locations, and the same weapons. In the well-loved board game, only one person is guilty; in the play, you never know how many of the guests could be responsible. Six people are sent letters and are asked to come to the mansion of a Mr. Boddy for a dinner party, but as they arrive, it becomes apparent that the party won't be as simple as it seems. Blackmail, deception, and murder all intertwine, keeping the audience members on the edges of their seats at every turn.

SCPA put on an impressive show overall. Though presented with the obstacle of limited actors and crew members (the show was put on by one class!), it was clear that no elements of performance or technical execution fell through the cracks. Incredible character portrayals, as well as effective and demanding technical successes, resulted in a highly entertaining performance from start to finish.

One of the most noteworthy cast members was Elaina Baker in her portrayal of Wadsworth the butler. Her character also served as a narrator and broke the fourth wall often during the performance. She pulled off the portrayal perfectly, holding herself with formality and grace while also providing comic relief. Marta'e McKinney was also quite memorable in his role as Mr. Green. Near the end of the show, he was tasked with completely changing character in a plot twist, and he met the challenge effortlessly. Isabella Siska, who played a variety of different roles throughout the show, was adaptive and dynamic with each character. Although her roles were small, her energy emanated throughout the theatre.

Not to be forgotten were the intense technical aspects of the show. Taking place in SCPA's Black Box Theatre, there was very little space to work with, but this didn't stop the fluidity of the show. Scene changes were seamless, with actors often serving as run crew members. The lighting, designed by Angela Crawford, was also extremely impressive. Colors illuminating the different characters stayed true to the original board game's color scheme, and the lighting design was also used to create unease in the audience. The eerie, tense feeling present throughout the show can also be attributed to the sound effects created by Eva Schramm. Whether it be creepy music, a rain storm, or the numerous other effects demanded by the show, each sound cue was executed well.

Providing suspense, humor, and wit, SCPA's production of "Clue " told the classic murder mystery tale through extremely talented actors and gifted crew members who were all dedicated to putting on the very best production of this classic murder mystery.

Review by Maria Schlaechter, Roger Bacon High School Cappies Critic Team

What better way to spend an afternoon or evening than sitting in the round at a murder mystery dinner party? SCPA Drama Ensemble's "Clue " has it covered! This play is a classic "whodunit" story that really captures the attention of all who came and watched this murder mystery unfold in front of and around them.

The story of "Clue " begins with six guests, all with various pseudonyms assigned to them as to not reveal any personal information about themselves, who are invited to the manor of Mr. Boddy (Hassan El-Cheikh ) on unknown terms. Mr. Boddy's  butler, Wadsworth (Elaina Baker ), informs the guests in attendance of what the evening might entail. Each of the guests are led to the dining room, where they eat a meal and begin to get to know each other, discussing their concerns about what is going on. Soon enough, the first murder of the night occurs, fingers are pointed, accusations get made, and the fun of the night begins.

Doing a show in a small black box theatre can have its challenges, especially for a production in the round, but SCPA's  "Clue " used the space it had brilliantly with only 16 cast and crew members, many of whom were on both cast and crew. The set, while somewhat minimal, was perfect for what it had, using various corners and sections of the theatre space to signify the different rooms of the home, set up just like the board of the board game Clue. Each of the six guests had a color that represented them; for example, Mrs. Scarlet (Janie Nalbandian) was represented by the color red, Colonel Mustard (Joe Hamzy ) was yellow, and Mrs. White (Annalyn Gauger ), who was ironically dressed in all black. These colors were matched in both their costumes, cube shaped stools that could be moved around the stage to represent different locations, and colored lights that would shine down on specific spots where each character might stand and specific points in the show.

Each of the actors and actresses portrayed their roles perfectly, executing their characters uniquely and flawlessly. While none of the performers wore microphones, they all projected their voices throughout the space brilliantly, and everything could be heard perfectly. One standout character is Wadsworth, who Elaina Baker portrays wonderfully. This character is cunning, smart, and always claims the center of attention when needed. Elaina had wonderful facial expressions, everything from delight, to contempt, to fear, and she performed with excellent timing, including moments of great humor. Another character who stands out is Mrs. White . Annalyn Gauger portrays this character wonderfully, in both her humorous and serious moments. The irony of being named Mrs. White while she dressed in all black and talked about death added much to her character, and her dry humor was performed impeccably. One final shout out needs to be made for Isabella Siska, who performed many minor characters, such as The Cook, the Motorist, and the Singing Telegram Girl. Each character was different and unique, and without looking at the script, it would be hard to believe that they were all performed by the same person. Each character was so unlike the others, yet Isabella portrayed each role masterfully.

Overall, SCPA Drama Ensemble's "Clue " was performed beautifully, and the mysterious elements of the show were executed immensely well, and both the humorous and serious moments alike were portrayed wonderfully.

Review by Hannah Stansbury, Ursuline Academy Cappies Critic Team

Six mysterious guests, six mysterious murders, six mysterious weapons, and not a "Clue" Who Dunnit! SCPA's production of "Clue"  skillfully combined thrilling tech elements and dedicated characters to create an environment of mystery that kept everyone on the edges of their seats.

"Clue" was not based solely off the household board game, but the 1985 movie production of "Clue" as well. Both the play and movie follow the story of six guests who are invited to a stranger's mansion for a dinner party, or so they thought. Throughout the night, each character's deepest secrets are exposed and mysterious murders begin occurring throughout the house. The comedic "Who Dunnit" engages audiences of all ages and is filled with laughs, murder, and mystery.

The success of SCPA's production of "Clue" was deeply rooted in the dedicated and consistent characterization from the actors and the sense of true mystery and suspense created through the precise lighting and sound cues.

The production was lead by the butler of the mansion, Wadsworth, played by Elaina Baker.  Wadsworth is viewed as the main narrator of the show, who leads not just the guests of the mansion, but breaks the fourth wall to lead the audience through the story as well. Baker did a phenomenal job portraying all characteristics of the complex character. Through her high and consistent energy and excellent comic timing, Baker brilliantly captured Wadsworth's persona.

Janie Nalbandian, portraying Mrs. Scarlet, and Joe Hamzy, portraying Colonel Mustard, preserved the light-hearted tone of the show, even when faced with murder. Janie truly captured Scarlet's humor as she said each line with undeniable sass. Joe also played the pompous Colonel in a humorous light by exaggerating the Colonel's stubborn and ignorant personality.

The technical elements of "Clue" were notable as well, creating an undeniable sense of suspense. The lighting was spot-on as Angela Crawford designed the light cues to uniquely match each character. The players have a certain color in the board game "Clue," Angela  gave each character an individual light color to shine on important developments in the plot. Additionally, Eva Schramm created a spooky environment through well-timed sound effects such as sudden thunder and lightning.

The cast and crew of SCPA's "Clue" skillfully combined mystery and comedy through dedicated actors and stunning tech elements, making the production as thrilling as ever.

Excerpts from Top Reviews

“Commitment to characters and the interactions between them set School for Creative and Performing Arts'  production of Clue apart. The actors and actresses captured the social drama that made the board game so fun and interesting. Each character was clearly their own person with their own backgrounds and beliefs, and they did an excellent job expressing them through their words and actions.”

-Cooper Scanlon, Miami Valley Christian Academy.

“In a show such as "Clue" lighting is particularly important because of its role in setting the mood, highlighting important objects, and maintaining the mystery surrounding the murders. The crew did an excellent job of conveying the slightly different ambiances each room held.”

-Victoria Childers, Roger Bacon High School.

“Wadsworth, played by Elaina Baker, and Mr. Green, played by Marta'e McKinney, were two standout performances. Elaina Baker truly took on the mystery and strength of her quirky and dark character, Wadsworth. Marta'e McKinney portrayed his character, Mr. Green, with strength as he became a leader among the group of guests. His twist in characterization at the end of the show was also wonderfully presented through his strong acting.”

-Emily Bruns, Roger Bacon High School

“Despite occasional technical setbacks, the cast and crew rose to the task and delivered an enjoyable and innovative performance. Complete with dynamic set elements and potent colour storytelling, SCPA Drama Ensemble presented an energetic take on a well-loved classic.”

-Reeya Dighe, Walnut Hills High School

“Marta'e McKinney as the seemingly timid Mr. Green and Elaina Baker as the eloquent yet devious Wadsworth led the cast of criminals with unrelenting vivacity and dexterity as they navigated quick room changes, murders in the dark, and demanding screaming matches among the guests.”

-Allyson Standley, Walnut Hills High School

“While certain designs were particularly noteworthy over others, the props crew, headed by Jordain Addis, provided numerous wet props throughout the show so a cast member would never be seen without a glass of "whiskey" in hand. Additionally, the set crew, helmed by Jacob Walker and Grace Yearout, overcame the challenge of transferring the iconic layout of the board game to the Black box format.”

-Clare Brennan, Walnut Hills High School

“Several technical elements stood out as simply superb, including the set, props, lighting, and sound. The immersive set created a board game of the Black Box theater, with each section of the audience sitting in one of the traditional settings from the board game. The props, specifically the murder weapons, both drove the plot and helped actors with characterization. Lighting emphasized the color scheme of the characters, and sound added to the theatricality of the production.”

-Iris LeCates, Walnut Hills High School

About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati

The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala.

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