SF Playhouse kills boredom and delivers delightful slapstick comedy ripped straight from the ’80s in its goofy adaptation of “Clue,” the timeless board game and movie. The show traverses what occurs when six flamboyant guests from Washington, D.C. are invited to an ominous dinner party, with a murderous, blackmail-fueled scheme orchestrated by the mysterious Mr. Boddy awaiting them. But when their host is found dead, each guest turns suspect — setting the stage for the classic, clownish whodunnit.
“Clue” doesn’t just lean into its ‘80s film inspiration, but dives into the world of gangly physical comedy and lewd jokes. While some of the quips may land more awkwardly than others, the play is at its best when it leans into its charismatic, comical ensemble. The play lets its guests shine brightest when slinging accusations and jests back and forth at breakneck speed.
Gangly politico Mr. Green (Greg Ayers) stands out amongst the cast, an awkwardly charming germaphobe often found hilariously fumbling about the ever rising amount of dead bodies. Ms. White (Renee Rogoff) similarly intrigues as a haughty socialite who may or may not have killed as many as three of her past husbands, delivering taut tongue in cheek humor throughout the show. Of course, in typical Clue fashion, each character is decked out in their name-sake. The slit in Ms. Scarlett’s (Courtney Walsh) infamous red dress is as high as ever, Ms. Peacock’s (Stacy Ross) flamboyant hat stands tall, and Mr. Plum’s (Michael Gene Sullivana) all-purple suit delivers in typical suave fashion — the small details building upon the already iconic designs.
While “Clue” may be based on a one dimensional board game, don’t expect its stage to follow suit. The mansion comes to life as a large, baroque entryway, complete with doors lining the opposing walls – each leading to another mysterious, just out of sight room. As guests arrive one by one, the staff dart in and out of the entrances, the flexible design complimenting the show’s quick clip. When the plot thickens, so does the stage itself — doors swing open to reveal entire rooms that are pulled, pushed and rotated onto the main stage as the motley crew attempts to uncover the mysterious slayer. “Clue” is expert in its prop and stage design — slow-motion falling chandeliers, exploding guns and comically large dining tables are just a few of the ways the play embraces its slapstick roots.
A rowdy romp, “Clue” delivers in fast-paced humor even if the show stumbles comedically when its ensemble splits up: Individual performances occasionally land as strained, while the timing always seems just a few beats off. The ‘80s humor is delightful nostalgia at best and wincing antiquation at worst, with raunchy jokes that take the show’s sexually indefatigable men as their premise coming off as contrived.
While “Clue” takes the challenge of adapting a two-dimensional board game and an ’80s movie into a play head on, the story occasionally lacks narrative dexterity. The establishing act eats up a quarter of the show, and fatigue quickly builds as each of the six characters rush to stick a lasting impression on the audience.
Though “Clue” may struggle to pick up the pace in the first half, the show finds its stride in the goofier moments. In one particular scene, the lights dim on the eerie mansion as the group splits into pairs to investigate, kicking off a classic “Scooby-Doo” running-through-doors scene. Zany and oddball, the crew dashes through rooms left and right, bickering and scheming along the way and cementing that the heart of the show’s charm lies in nostalgic delight. Retro, physical comedy at its best — “Clue” is best enjoyed with a love for mystery and a penchant for mirth over murder.