Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Hold the Applause Productions
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Carla's recent review of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

Courtesy of Hold the Applause Productions
As a kid, we played Clue. Clue was different from other board games–it is essentially a story game. You have a murder, suspects, weapons, and rooms. The winner of the game is the first player to identify the murderer, the weapon, and the room. It's a mystery story. In 1985, the game was made into an unsuccessful movie that featured different endings, with audience interaction determining the ending. Home media releases included all three endings presented sequentially. In the 1990s, Clue was turned into a musical that includes a murder at a mansion, with several suspects and a detective. The ending is decided by the audience. The musical had a short Off-Broadway run after some regional tryouts but was not a hit. It has since made the rounds at community and dinner theaters.

In 2013, Sandy Rustin took the Clue screenplay by Jonathan Lynn and turned it into a "farce meets murder mystery" play. The idea plows tons of energy into what would otherwise be quaint. Characters have been added to the classic board game icons (most notably, a butler becomes the master of ceremonies) and there are multiple murders. As the story moves through its uninterrupted 90 minutes, the action grows into a hilarious, over-the-top pileup. Nice.

The current production of the play by Hold the Applause Productions at the Desert Rose Playhouse leans heavily into the farce. The costumes are too much and the action stays decidedly tongue-in-cheek. The story slips into the ridiculous, thank goodness. About 45 minutes in, I found myself thinking, that ain't bad. It gets better and better through the end. Along the way, there are some lovely easter eggs from the board game.

Director Tanner Sroufe does a good job with an ensemble of 11 actors. Standouts include Cash Martinez as Wadsworth, the butler. He carries the bulk of the comedy, accenting it with light and clever touches. His character becomes nearly real. We also get a strong performance from Albuquerque acting veteran Dan Ware. He lifts the energy every time he opens his mouth. The rest of the ensemble is also strong, in a Keystone Cops sort of way.

The costumes by Dru Martinez and Tesa McCracken are lush, odd and funny while carrying Clue-game references. The set design is minimal. In one scene, the set is just a door in the middle of the stage, indicating two rooms. Yet it works. The production is just right in a haphazard, comedy-collision manner. Hats off to a crazy seat-of-the-pants show with plenty of laughs.

Hold the Applause Productions' Clue runs through September 4, 2022, at at Desert Rose Playhouse, 6921 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 7:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15. For tickets and information, please visit