Halloween may be over, but its spirit was still alive this past weekend in Hinman Production Company’s (HPC) production of the horror-comedy “Clue: On Stage.”
In many ways, “Clue: On Stage” is a magic act. The colorful chaos that unfolds on the stage not only entertains but also distracts from the murder mystery playing out before your eyes. The play followed a cast of mysterious individuals brought together at a suspicious manor to confront the man blackmailing all of them, and from there a series of hijinks played out full of secrets, deception and a fair amount of murder.
The cast of characters was brought to life by a troupe of actors whose interplay introduced comedy and exchanges that went beyond the scripted action.
Rachel Shteynman, director of the production and a senior majoring in biology, said this chemistry was present from the beginning of production.
“During the auditions before they were even cast as their characters, I had opened up the audition room, [and] they were already set in a little circle,” Shteynman said. “They were already talking with each other, they were already getting close. Then I remember at our table read, which was the first rehearsal … everyone was so well cast and just perfect. There was just so much chemistry in the room that we already knew this was going to be special.”
Lexi Austin, a junior majoring in philosophy who played the zealot, Mrs. Peacock, expressed a similar sentiment regarding not just the talent of the company but also of the crew.
“The amount of talent in the room is just amazing every single day,” Austin said. “I’m just so surprised. Not even just like the actors, but I mean like looking at the set now that it is finished, the directors are amazing [as] every tip they give has made the performance 20 times better every single time. Everybody is just amazing!”
Indeed, the talent of the cast and crew was made much more apparent having watched both an early dress rehearsal and a performance. The actors had the ability to evolve the show over the span of merely a couple of days.
In keeping with the mysterious nature of the plot, each actor did an excellent job in presenting and hiding the dark layers of their characters. Depicting devious criminals is not a natural mindset for most people, and several cast members explained their processes of preparation for their parts.
Antonia Canosa, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience who played the seductive and manipulative Miss Scarlett, described all of the thoughts and details that went into bringing her character to life.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about what would need to be true about this person’s personality in order for her to be involved in this mess,” Canosa said. “Like, OK, if she is doing this type of job, especially in the 1950s, that must mean that she is sharp and brutal. And all these things started popping into place based on who she would need to be in order to say the things she says and react the way she reacts … I’ve never played a part where I had to be this like ‘sexy’ or ‘flirty’ before, which is pretty new for me, but I feel like the directors have been super helpful, and the cast has been super supportive.”
For Jack Harkins, an undeclared sophomore who played the supposed Mr. Boddy, preparation came from his experience with the source material and other influential media.
“I’ve known the movie since I was a little kid, so I know the characters really well,” Harkins said. “I was able to like really jump into the show really easily, and for me, since I play Mr. Boddy, I wanted to play it like how Joaquin Phoenix plays the Joker as I thought it would be really fun, so that’s what I did.”
The play itself had numerous standout moments of humor and suspense, and Canosa and Austin both shared the same favorite moment.
“Definitely my showdown with Wadsworth,” Canosa said. “That has never gone the same way twice, and it’s going to be interesting to see what ends up on the stage because both of our blood goes really up, we’re both fighting over a gun, and it just gets really crazy.”
“I really like the ending scene,” Austin said. “Everything gets revealed, and it’s awesome. Everyone’s true characters are coming out, and we’ve got all of this stuff going on … It’s like,’Who [did] it?’. And now we have finally figured it out.”
More than anything else, Shteynman hoped to create something with suspense that got people talking.
“This is a one-act play, it doesn’t have two acts, but I separated it into two acts so that there would be an intermission,” Shteynman said. “The place where I made the split was very purposeful because I want the idea of everyone being able to leave like ‘Who killed him? Who did this? Who did that?’ The idea of the mystery leaves the room … I just want to bring whatever is happening on the stage to be outside of it too.”
If the goal was to keep the mystery alive, then “Clue: On Stage” was indeed a success.