MHS Theatre Company returns with farcical ‘Clue’

1031
MHS Clue 2021
Mr. Green (senior Simon Tye) holds a victim during the student presentation of "Clue: On Stage" during filming last week. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The arts have been victimized by the coronavirus pandemic all the way down to the high school level. That includes the Maricopa High School Theatre Company, which had to change its plans for the performing year and change them again.

What should have been dark times (as hopes for a spring musical evaporated) instead evolved into dark, comic farce. For its spring performance, the student troupe presents the play “Clue: On Stage.”

MHS Clue 2021 Stage
The two-story set at the heart of the “Clue” production was designed theater tech director Kevin Piquette. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Recorded in front of a limited audience, the production will be available for home viewing from Friday to Sunday (April 15-18) through Broadway OnDemand.

The play is based on the 1985 movie and the original board game in which players try to solve a murder. It uses the familiar, colorful characters to parody murder-mystery tropes. The audience may try to figure out who the killer is as the victims pile up, but the production is really an opportunity for the young cast to show off their comic skills, which are considerable.

While the cast members all wear masks to maintain health precautions, the face coverings serendipitously enhance the idea the characters are not who they claim to be and are hiding their motives. There are fewer audio issues here than in the company’s moving fall production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” also played in masks.

The “Clue” cast is sharp with the one-liners and physical comedy. These are broadly drawn characters played to the hilt, all great for a night of silliness. The action is fast-paced with no need for an intermission.

Senior John Jackson is Wadsworth. The butler, he has a lot on his shoulders, greeting each guest at the remote mansion on a stormy night and thus introducing each to the audience. He is often leading the cast from room to room and has a high-speed and hysterical wrap-up that may or may not be the solution.

Among the guests, junior Joey Russoniello is a dufus of a Col. Mustard, who can always be counted on to do or say the stupid thing. Senior Taya Johnson again shines as the mysterious, many-times-widowed Mrs. White with bone-chilling screaming ability. Senior Mary Brokenshire is the moralistic, excitable Mrs. Peacock. Princess Elisa Jimenez, also a senior, is Miss Scarlett, who has no secrets about being a paid escort. Dominick Miszewski is the dubious, pervy Professor Plum. Senior Simon Ty is the seemingly benign Mr. Green, whose clumsy persona may mask something nefarious.

MHS Clue 2021 Jiminez Russionello
Miss Scarlet (senior Princess Elisa Jimenez) and Col. Mustard (junior Joey Russoniello) are on the Maricopa Performing Arts stage with the wrench. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Then there is Mr. Boddy (Nicholas Perez), who is entertaining dead or alive, the maid Yvette (Haley Raffaele), the cook, a motorist who stops by the murderous mansion, a random cop, a singing telegram girl and a police chief. They all complicate the plot.

Hats off to all, who, with most of their faces hidden, are able to be hilarious using their eyes, bodies and voices. The cast is helped by a great, two-story set designed by theater tech director Kevin Piquette, who was also in charge of the students running the very effective lighting and sound.

Director Alexandra Stahl has drawn top farce from her students for this fun experience, helped by student director Cameron Patton-Scott and stage manager Katie Hanks.

The production is a triumph of will for the MHS Theatre Company, which worked more than year to get “Clue” staged within all the changing restrictions of COVID-19 and the school district’s policies. Their determination went beyond “the show must go on” and set an example even the pros can aspire to.

MHS Clue 2021 Cast
The cast deals with another victim during “Clue: On State,” filmed last weekend and streaming this coming weekend. The production was directed by Alexandra Stahl. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The performances used for streaming were filmed Thursday and Friday at the MHS Performing Arts Center. Tickets to view the production “on demand” this coming weekend can be found here. Cost for individual virtual tickets is $10.

MHS Theatre Company, possibly making up for its dearth of musicals this season, has planned two musicals for the 2021-22 school year. At this time, they plan to perform “Bright Star,” by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, in the fall and “She Loves Me,” the classic romantic comedy by Jerry Bock, in the spring.

CAST

Taya Johnson as Mrs. White
Mary Brokenshire as Mrs. Peacock
Simon Ty as Mr. Green
Princess Elisa Jimenez as Miss Scarlet
Dominick Miszewski as Professor Plum
Nicholas Perez as Mr. Boddy
Grant Goodrich as The Unexpected Motorist
Natalie Hanania as The Cop (understudy: Miss Scarlet)
Morgan Cutrara as The Singing Telegram Girl (u/s Professor Plum and Mrs. White)
Cayden Atkinson as The Chief of Police (u/s Colonel Mustard)

CREW

Alex Stahl, Director
Kevin Piquette, Technical Director
Katie Hanks, Stage Manager
Cameron Patton-Scott, Student Director
Fallon Fruchey, Assistant Stage Manager
Krystal Muder, Light Board Operator
Tyler Hanks, Special Effects Operator
Zariah Marsh, Spot Operator
Julie Nguyen, Sound Engineer
Kiyoni Rickords, Stage Crew