This weekend, audiences will grip the armrests of their seats as they watch a mysterious hand emerge from the curtains, lifting a gun to a singing telegram girl who’s fluttering whimsically across the stage. Within seconds, a blistering BANG will rattle the theater, leaving the audience in shock as the girl, once lively, lies dead on the ground.
Oyster River High School’s (ORHS) 2022 fall play, Clue, will be performed in the ORHS auditorium at 7:00 pm on Thursday, Nov. 17th and Friday, Nov. 18th, and at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm on Saturday, Nov. 19th. Tickets cost $5 each and can be purchased at the door or online.
Based on the infamous whodunit’ Hasbro board game and the 1985 cult classic it inspired, Clue follows six mysterious, wealthy socialites who are invited to a dinner party at Boddy Manor and given aliases by a host. However, when the host is killed, the guests soon discover the only thing being served on the menu is murder, and that they must uncover the culprit among them.
Alex Eustace, the show’s director and an English and Theater teacher at ORHS, admits he chose Clue as the fall play because it was a childhood favorite. He also thinks it’s just a genuinely funny production from start to finish. “It has humor for everyone,” says Eustace. “There are some clever jokes matched with the most absurd, slapstick humor you could imagine.”
Like Eustace, Marlise Hyde (‘24) believes that the funny, and occasionally raunchy, moments in Clue are what makes it unique from typical high school productions. Hyde plays Miss Scarlet in the show, a cunning and sardonic woman who runs an escort service and says, “there’s a lot of body humor that goes on and some lines that you just wouldn’t expect from a high school performance. That’s not to say it’s not family-friendly, it’s just no Annie; it is nothing like other plays I’ve done in the past.”
Although Clue shares similar aspects to last year’s fall play, Rumors, in that it follows wealthy people who try to cover up a gunshot in ridiculous ways, Eustace thinks that the differences between the two may make kids more interested in seeing the show.
“Well, unlike in Rumors, people actually die; there is actually violence in the show, and I’ve found that’s typically a crowd-pleaser. Clearly, we have not changed much since the Colosseum,” joked Eustace. Eustace also mentioned that the show is much more abstract than Rumors, and that the characters in Clue come off as “less human.” This required the actors to become very familiar with their characters so they could emphasize all the quirks of their roles.
“A lot of the show is just about embracing your character and learning how to move your body in a way that fits the narrative,” said Elsie Paxton (‘23), who portrays the arrogant and diabolical Professor Plum. “We have a lot of liberty with our lines, so we can pop jokes and prepare for the moments we need to improv by spending lots of time in our role. We even incorporate some of the 1950s slang we learned!” Paxton continued.
Hyde also commented on how “actor-dependent” of a play Clue is and says it’s a refreshing change from the more structured plays she’s performed in the past. “When I found out so much of my performance was riding on my ability to improv, I was nervous. But, the more comfortable I got with it the more I realized how much freedom and choice it’s given to me to make the most of my character.” Hyde said that because the play focuses on all six guests, she and her cast members are constantly working from each other’s energies when they work through their improv. “It’s not about being the funniest one on stage,” Hyde said. “It’s about working together to create the funniest scene.”
Hyde said that improv is also used for more than just comedic purposes. Throughout the show, improv helps the show run more smoothly when actors pick up each other’s dropped lines with ease. Additionally, since Clue is such a fast-paced show, the cast often uses improv to draw on a scene when tech needs more time to prepare props.
Clue’s stage manager Clio Grondahl (‘23) says the short amounts of time in between set changes have been one of the most difficult parts of the production process. “It’s been chaotic. The set is very cool and very elaborate, but there have been times where we are literally taking entire rooms offstage in one blackout.” However, Grondahl says everything is finally starting to come together, and that the audience should be prepared for some “wow” lighting and sound moments.
While the show’s fast pace has presented challenges to the crew and cast, Hyde likes to think of it as an advantage to herself and her castmates. “There’s no intermission and we never really put the brakes on the action. As an actor, you’re able to keep the energy up and keep the audience’s attention…it’s not like there are ten minutes where there’s a lull and you can turn to your neighbor and ask, ‘how’s your day?’ There’s none of that. Every scene builds on itself, and the energy just builds, and builds, and builds until it explodes,” said Hyde.
To those who think this show ‘won’t be for them’ or that ‘theater isn’t their thing,’ Eustace would like to emphasize this: “It’s five dollars. That is cheaper than a five-dollar Biggy Bag at Wendy’s because you have to pay tax on that, so what are you really spending your money on? I’m being serious.”
Whether you like to laugh, cry, or blackmail your friends, Eustace and the cast of Clue encourage you to buy tickets to come see the show from Nov. 17th through 19th for an evening of mystery and murder.
– Abby Owens
Photos Courtesy of Zoe Selig