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Weapons of mass deduction: Ovation Theatre's game for 'Clue'

With so many unknowns in the world these days, it might be nice to enjoy a good whodunit with some resolution — and laughs to boot. Amateur detectives can begin the investigation this weekend with "Clue" at Ovation Theatre.

Director Laurie Howlett said the show is, first and foremost, a lot of fun.

"It's zippy, it's fast — a little romp of a play," she said.

Howlett is a full "Clue" fan, from the board game she last played with her 14-year-old grandson on vacation to the beloved 1985 cult classic starring Tim Curry and all the stage versions in between. 

"I think I've seen everything produced of 'Clue' in Bakersfield in the last 20 years."

This is Howlett's first show at Ovation and she was excited to work in a new theater with people she's known for a long time. She was also thrilled to be working with a newer script, which is still based on the film but had a rewrite in 2017.

"It's much nicer than the old script," she said. "It’s clever and quick with more up-to-date references, topical references."

Beyond the material, she knew her cast of seasoned performers would deliver on the murder comedy.

"It’s just a team of pros bringing their A-game to the stage. It makes things easy."

The cast features a number of Ovation management including Jason McClain as Wadsworth the butler, Hal Friedman as Professor Plum and Adam Cline as Mr. Green. Cline's wife, Terri, plays mysterious widow Mrs. White, while the dinner party is rounded out by Bethany Rowlee as Miss Scarlet, Mark Prow as Colonel Mustard and Rosie Ayala as Mrs. Peacock.

The ensemble also includes Erica Ueberroth as Yvette the maid and Jennifer Prow, Tim Fromm and Austin Cline.

"I'm thrilled with the cast," Howlett said. "They're seasoned actors who bring a whole lot to the table. Rehearsals were just great from the beginning, but the minute they went off book, got their scripts out of their hands, they got more physical — there's a lot of physicality in this show — and it went from good to better."

Along with their performances, each needed to dress the part in their properly hued ensemble. 

Costume designer Becky Ingle said she was very interested in the color story of "Clue."

She said, "Having grown up playing the game, it's the most distinct thing about the game. That they're named after the color that they wear."

"It was something that they kind of ignored in the movie. It didn't sit right with me and it was something I wanted the opportunity to rectify on the stage."

Beyond the distinctive colors, she wanted to extend the sartorial symbolism with distinct materials and textures. That includes Miss Scarlet clad in a velvet gown, Mr. Green in tweed, Professor Plum in paisley with foil accents and Colonel Mustard in canvas.

Ingle said she thought she'd have the most fun finding the costume for Mrs. Peacock ("I have blue hair and I love the color.") but it ended up being Mrs. White, whose costume features leather accents.

"There's a controversy whether she should be wearing black or white, so I did a Cruella de Vil take on her."

Some of the costumes had to be doubled to allow for some stage magic when the guests are working out who did what and to whom and with what weapon. She said the crew joked that the doubled costumes are "what you ordered on"

She said, "They're not extremely visible. They just have to read as that character."

Howlett, who praised Ingle's work as well as McClain and his crew's set design, which includes projections to portray the many rooms of the Boddy mansion, said she can't wait for audiences to enjoy everyone's hard work.

"I would like them to enjoy a fun and lighter night out at the theater. I would like for them to be reminded of the classic Clue board game.

"It's a fabulous translation of the board game into a real thing."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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