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‘Clue’ provides killer fun

NILES — Audience members will wonder who kills in Trumbull New Theatre’s production of “Clue.”

The truth is everyone kills it in this production, no spoiler alert necessary.

For a bit of crowd-pleasing escapist fun, TNT’s staging is hard to beat.The laughs pile up faster than the body count.

The play is based on a board game that has been available in the U.S. since 1949, so many have grown up trying to figure out who the murderer is, what weapon was used and where in a country mansion the crime occurred.

They also may know the 1985 movie written and directed by Jonathan Lynn that is the foundation of the play (credited to Lynn, Sandy Rustin, Hunter Foster and Eric Price). It wasn’t a hit but has developed a bit of a cult following over the decades.

Six guests — Colonel Mustard (Steve Brown), Mrs. White (Jennifer Milligan), Mrs. Peacock (Taylor Lody), Mr. Green (Russ Nalepa), Miss Scarlett (Angi Pearce) and Mr. Plum (Daniel McElhaney) — arrive at a mansion that is owned by Mr. Boddy (Josh Crank), a man they’ve never met who is blackmailing each of them.

When he is murdered, everyone has a motive and becomes a suspect, and they also are in danger of becoming the next casualty.

“Clue” is a true ensemble comedy, but if there’s a lead character, it’s one who wasn’t in the board game.

Wadsworth the Butler is played by Brett Bunker. He starts out drolly condescending but before the show is over, he turns the role into a tour de force of verbal and physical comedy.

“Clue” is the kind of show where performances can’t be too broad and several of the actors embrace that.

Every time McElhaney’s Plum reminds the others that he’s a doctor, he strikes a pose, his face fills with a smirk and he all but winks at the audience.

Madelyn Voltz plays a maid with the most exaggerated accent since Pepe LePew. Nalepa’s Mr. Green couldn’t be more sniveling and whiny.

Director Lisa Bennett and the cast do a great job with the physical comedy. “Clue” is filled with pratfalls, slaps and other bits of fast-paced action that propel the show and deliver some of the biggest laughs.

The set design by Bennett and Tom Hitmar has the challenge of creating all those rooms on the tight TNT stage. It makes for some tight blocking when all of the characters are cramped into spaces not much bigger than a walk-in closet and it takes the viewer a little time to figure out where the imaginary walls are, but ultimately it works.

TNT has been trying for a couple years to bring “Clue” to its stage. Rights issues and pandemics delayed its arrival, but Saturday’s performance proved it was worth the wait.

If you go …

WHAT: “Clue”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 26

WHERE: Trumbull New Theatre 5883 Youngstown-Warren Road, Niles.

HOW MUCH: $17 adults and $15 students. Tickets are available online at trumbullnewtheatre.com and by calling the TNT box office between 7 and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 330-652-1103.

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