Colonel Mustard killed Mrs. Peacock in the library with the candlestick. Or maybe it was Miss Scarlett in the kitchen with the wrench. If you’re a fan of the board game “Clue” or the 1985 movie “Clue” starring Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn well, then, you’re just going to have to come see “Clue:On Stage” at Eastern Arizona College this week.
Since early September, more than 50 students and professors have been putting in hundreds of hours working on an elaborate stage and transforming themselves into the characters made famous in the murder mystery comedy.
Donte Smolinski, a Benson High School graduate, has taken on the Curry role of Wadsworth, the butler. The theater major has been acting since the seventh grade and hopes to someday land on the Broadway stage.
“It’s just simply fun,” Smolinski said of the play. “There’s been so much stuff happening in the world. I think it would be nice for people to be able to come and sit and watch something to enjoy.”
The last few months have been fun and challenging, he said. Keeping an English accent is tough, as is finding the balance between “too goofy” and goofy enough.
The EAC staff behind the production are Dale J. Young, associate professor and director of the theater program, Scott Dahl, associate professor of design and production, lighting designer Don Eller, costume designer Timilee McNair and scene shop foreman Rick Britt. Chase Moore will be the play’s live, on-stage musical accompanist.
“Our character interpretations are based on the original game, not the modern version of the game,” Young said. “It’s going to be a very broad comedy. One of the reasons we picked this play is I wanted to teach the students or challenge the students to rise to a farce-level of performance for comedy. Lots of slamming doors, lots of big jokes so we amped up the comedy a bit.”
Audience members might remember some of the cast members from Charlie Brown last season, but there are some newcomers, like Smolinksi, Young said.
Aside from Smolinski, cast members include: Jackson Knight, Taylor Fields, Trevor Casperson, Sam Colwell, Madelyn Nielson, Amber Wisely and Amilee Penrod.
“A big thing I’m trying to get them to do is to remember that they’re playing a game, too, on the stage, that they’re playing artificial characters,” Young said. “The French maid has a very broad French accent that may or may not be correct because she may or may not be French and the butler is British, or is he? Professor Plum is a professor, or is he? There’s lots of surprises in here that people will have to look closely to catch.”
The students have been working incredibly hard and many of them are also involved in music and art, Young said.
“Farce acting is a very specific style of acting, it’s cartoony, but it’s also deadly serious. If you think of shows like Frasier. Every episode of Frasier is a farce, but you never, ever see the actors laughing at themselves. They always let the audience do the laughing for them,” Young said. “It’s a whole level of physicality and commitment that they’re not used to so it’s been a great challenge for them and I’m super, super proud of each of them.”
The audience will not only be greatly impressed by the actors, but by the students who created the stage under the direction of Dahl, who recently returned to EAC after a brief stint at another college, Young said.
“Our sets in quality have jumped exponentially,” Young said. “The set is super high quality and has its own sense of humor...Both scott and I love to visually arrest people, to make them look a little bit deeper at things. The thing I love about working with Scott is you give him a few visual cues and ideas and he just goes crazy with them.”
In fact, Young said Dahl gave him drawings of three completely different sets.
Dahl, who said he loves a good mystery, knew the set was going to be quite a challenge.
“I tried to encapture a little bit of the movement and the chaos,” he said.
Roughly 30 of his students put in a lot of hours creating the set, including many, many Saturdays, he said.
“EAC seems to bring the best out of me. We have a nice-sized budget, we have all of the support that we need. You couldn’t design this at just any school,” Dahl said.
Although Clue may not be the type of comedy with a deep message, Dahl said it’s definitely the type of comedy where people can go and “forget their day-to-day life.”
“It’s mostly just slapstick fun, but I still hope that people will reflect on the hard work we put into it, the talent of our kids, my talent and Don’s,” Dahl said.