Mystery solved! ‘Clue’ is at TNT

“Clue” will be a mystery no more at Trumbull New Theatre.

The comedy based on the film that was based on the popular board game opens Friday, two seasons after the community theater originally wanted to stage it.

TNT couldn’t get the rights for the Jonathan Lynn / Sandy Rustin / Hunter Foster play for its 2019-20 season because Cleveland Play House was doing it.

It was on TNT’s 2020-21 season but … do we still need to explain what went wrong in 2020?

Now it opens the 2021-22 season, and director Lisa Bennett said it’s worth the wait.

“It’s just a big ball of fun,” Bennett said.

Generations of children and adults know the board game that challenged players to solve a murder by identifying the killer, the room where it happened and the weapon used to inflict the fatal blow.

Its popularity was reflected by the number of people who came out for auditions.

“We had a really good turnout,” Bennett said. “I had so many, I let people read against each other to see how they worked together and decide whether this person fits Mrs. Peacock better than Mrs. White and better than Miss Scarlet.

“I think a lot of actors were just itching to get back on stage, but also this is a show they know or know of and were anxious to be a part of it.”

And the community theater does have a circuitous connection to the play. The game Clue inspired the 1985 movie written by Lynn, who went on to direct “My Cousin Vinny,” which co-starred Warren native Austin Pendleton, whose mother started TNT.

The play closely follows the film’s script. Six guests are invited to a dinner party at a remote mansion. When the host turns up dead, they try to figure out who the killer is before they’re added to the casualty list.

“It’s an interesting juxtaposition between a murder mystery and a slapstick comedy,” Bennett said. “There are elements of suspense and mystery with a huge dash of sarcasm and humor. If you like mysteries and don’t want to be horribly frightened, it’s perfect.”

When the movie was released, they shot multiple endings, and depending upon when and where someone saw the movie, the solution to the mystery was different.

The play has only one ending, but Bennett said the script does run through the multiple possibilities before revealing its solution.

The cast features Steve Brown, Angi Pearce, Russ Nalepa, Taylor Lody, Daniel McElhaney, Jennifer Milligan, Brett Bunker, Madelyn Voltz, Marisa Keshock, Keith Bowers and Josh Crank.

Bennett said she normally splits up the rehearsal schedule, working only on certain scenes on a given night, so the actors don’t need to be at every practice.

“This is such an ensemble show, I had them all every night,” she said. “I got to know them all very well, and we were able to stretch some of the performances, try some new things and push people out of their comfort zones.”

While “Clue” can be staged without an intermission, Bennett decided to add one for their production.

“We found a good stopping point,” she said. “With the physicality of the show, we thought it was better for the actors and possibly the audience to have a break.”

If you go …

WHAT: “Clue”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Sept. 25 and 2 p.m. Sept. 19 and 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. Masks are strongly recommended for audience members, and there will be no opening night reception to avoid a large crowd gathering in the lobby.


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