A local theater wants you to help solve a murder in Loudoun County, Virginia.
That is, a fictional murder mystery based on a classic Hasbro board game.
StageCoach Theatre Company presents “Clue” in Ashburn, Virginia, from Sept. 12-27.
“Our theater company specializes in murder mysteries,” co-director Kat Brais told WTOP. “We wanted to try a main stage production that would save the local playwright, which is my husband [Terry Smith], from having to write yet another play. Everyone loves the game ‘Clue,’ so this has been percolating in my brain for about two years.”
If you’ve never played the game, the story is a lot like last year’s film “Knives Out.”
“You have six main characters who show up to a mansion [after] some mysterious invitation,” Brais said. “Strange murders take place throughout the mansion. The whole premise is to find out who did it, to which character, in what room, with which weapon. … There’s a knife, a revolver, a wrench, a lead pipe, a candlestick and a rope.”
The cast includes Phil Erickson as Prof. Plum, Dino Coppa Sr. as Col. Mustard, Arista Michelle as Miss Scarlet, Penny Hauffe as Mrs. Peacock, Joshua Aaron Poole as Mr. Green, Alexa Yarboro Pettengill as Mrs. White, Allen McRae as Wadsworth, Addie Schafer Benko as Yvette, Carleigh Jones as Cook and Glen Bartram as Mr. Boddy.
“We have 10 actors altogether,” Brais said. “We had one of the area’s best costumers, Kathy Dunlap, she pulled together some really vibrant, wonderful, vintage, 1952-style clothing for our characters. All of the characters with a color name like Peacock or Green or Plum, they are dressed in those colors. She has done an outstanding job.”
The set design also brings back great memories of the board game.
“The floor has been painted by Liana Wroble to replicate a ‘Clue’ game board,” Brais said. “She’s going to finish up labeling all the rooms and the backdrops, and any set pieces were done by my husband, who’s wearing multiple hats in this production.”
It’s all helmed by Brais and co-director Barbara Carpenter.
“She and I have been friends for 20 years,” Brais said. “We have very limited space in which to block, so she is very creative with working around limitations. … We realized that all of the blocking we had done for those [pre-COVID] months just didn’t work because the staging was so different, so we kind of learned to block it on the fly.”
In-person performances include safety precautions for the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s dinner theater, but with COVID and everything we’ve had to squelch that,” Brais said. “We are making reservations with groups of people. We usually seat about 70 to 75 patrons and we’re only seating 30 at this point. We will distance groups and we’ve eliminated the first two rows of seats. … The actors are all masked in clear masks.”
It might not be the full dinner theater experience, but you can still purchase snacks.
“You can get snacks that you can pre-purchase that will be ready for you [to pick up] at intermission,” Brais said. “Our goal is, weather permitting, to set up tables outside for people to enjoy some fresh air during intermission.”
If you’re not quite ready to head back to public spaces just yet, you can also livestream the entire show from home on certain designated dates: Sept. 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27.
“If they don’t feel safe, we have virtual reality for them to come visit with us for a live performance they can catch online,” Brais said. “Reimagining [ourselves] as a virtual hub, trying different techniques with smaller shows to get people back to the theater.”
It’s just the latest evolution of StageCoach Theatre in Northern Virginia.
“It started I believe seven or eight years ago by Jerri Wiseman and Terry Smith,” Brais said. “Three years ago, they finally got their own space in Ashburn on Ashburn Road. … It’s just a wonderful, wonderful place to see a show in Loudoun County.”
In the end, it’s all about having a good time during a dark time.
“We just felt everybody needed something light and fun to do,” Brais said. “It’s a slapstick, ridiculous comedy and just a lot of fun. … I’m just hoping that the audience, while trying to figure it out, doesn’t forget to sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness of it.”