Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Harvey, Bell, Book and Candle, Legends Of: The Werewolf, Next to Normal, Pound

Cat Hartmann, Bradley McGinnis, Carson Ware,
Christina Clodt, Jennifer Lee White,
Nathan Traxler, Alixandra Giordano,
and Joshua Hengst

Photo by Renee Ashlock
I have to imagine that just about everyone has either played the classic board game Clue or has at least heard of it. The board game was the basis for a 1985 film of the same name, and in 2017 a stage comedy was created using the film screenplay as its plot. While I have a few issues with some of the pacing and a few of the cast members in Scottsdale Desert Stages' production, the last 15 minutes in this comic play are hilarious and will keep you guessing as to just whodunit.

The plot, adapted for the stage and expanded slightly by Sandy Rustin, Hunter Foster and Eric Price, follows the film screenplay by Jonathan Lynn fairly closely. Six strangers have been invited to a remote mansion outside of Washington D.C. for a dinner party. They are all given pseudonyms and over the course of the evening it's revealed they've all been being blackmailed by the same person, their host Mr. Boddy. When Boddy is found dead, they all become possible suspects, so the guests, along with the butler Wadsworth, race to reveal who the killer is.

The stage script honors the hijinks and insanity of the film while also adding in some new gags. While there are plenty of twists and turns in the play, it's fairly silly and even corny in spots and, unfortunately, there isn't much in the added material that elevates it above the screwball nature of the film into something more stylish and sophisticated. However, it does find a way to honor the film's multiple endings (three different endings were shot, with a random ending being used in different cities when the film was released and all were included as a bonus feature on the film's DVD release), which makes the finale, as everything comes together, great fun and even a better payoff than the movie's ending.

Director Mark-Alan C. Clemente does a fairly good job in ratcheting up the ridiculous nature of the characters and plot. Unfortunately, the set design isn't that elaborate or realistic and with a script that calls for scenes set in close to a dozen different rooms in the house and multiple, fast scene changes between those rooms there are many lulls in the action as large pieces of furniture have to be swapped before the next scene can begin. The furniture that is used is great, but for a fast-paced comedy, those moments bring the pacing to a halt several times. Clemente does make good use of two curtains on the set to quickly change a few scenes, but since the stage in Desert Stages' Cullity Hall is large I would have thought one side could have been used for one location while the other was being pre-set for the next, with the use of lighting to focus our attention appropriately. Clemente does include a live accompanist and live foley sound effects that add to the fun, though there could be more of them to truly make their addition shine, and Tamara Treat's costumes, which play on the color schemes of the six suspects' assumed names, are gorgeous.

Joshua Hengst is excellent as Wadsworth, the mansion's butler. His accent is flawless and his comic timing and delivery get big laughs. As the six suspects, Cat Hartmann (Miss Scarlet), Christina Clodt (Mrs. White), Jennifer Lee White (Mrs. Peacock), Carson Ware (Mr. Green), Bradley McGinnis (Professor Plum), and Nathan Traxler (Colonel Mustard) all play up the eccentric nature of their characters, but not all have the comic timing that is required to ensure the jokes land and that the peculiarities of their roles resonate. Also, based on the backstories we are told, some of the cast appear much younger than the characters they are playing, and they should have been made up to look closer to the characters' ages.

Alixandra Giordano is playful and fun as the French maid Yvette, and Mallory Alvarez, Carlos Sanchez Beltran, Dierk Seeburg do well in several small parts, including providing a few fun moments where they play dead bodies that get moved around or remain on the stage.

The play, like the film, is a ridiculous romp with eccentric characters and silly situations. While Desert Stages' production has some shortcomings with its cast and pacing, and the play itself isn't perfect, if you're a fan of the film or of humorous murder mysteries, you'll most likely find something to enjoy in the stage version of Clue.

Clue runs through October 10, 2021, at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre at Fashion Square, 7014 East Camelback Road, Suite 0586, Scottsdale AZ. Tickets and information are available at or by phone at 480-483-1664.

Director: Mark-Alan C. Clemente
Stage Manager: Emmi Payne
Assistant Stage Manager:
Costume Designer: Tamara Treat
Set Design: Mark-Alan C. Clemente, Cat Hartmann
Lighting Designer: Stacey Walston
Sound Designer: Justin Heffner, Emmi Payne
Props: Jillian Clark, Christina Clodt, Cat Hartmann, & the Cast
Make Up & Wigs: Ali Giordano, Tamara Treat
Accompanist: Daniel Kurek

Yvette: Alixandra Giordano
Miss Scarlet: Cat Hartmann
Mrs. White: Christina Clodt
Mrs. Peacock: Jennifer Lee White
Wadsworth: Joshua Hengst
Mr. Green: Carson Ware
Professor Plum: Bradley McGinnis
Colonel Mustard: Nathan Traxler
Ensemble: Mallory Alvarez, Carlos Sanchez Beltran, Dierk Seeburg