PICTURED: Dr. Orchid in the “study” (Figueroa Street Mall) with the candlestick; Mr. Butler standing by, April 16, 2021. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer


There have been enough online and drive-in productions to remind us that theater continues to live and breathe, if not exactly thrive, in these times. Now, as the weather warms up and the much-maligned (but occasionally beneficial) daylight savings time has held darkness at bay for an additional hour, a new theatrical experience is hitting the streets to bring live entertainment to local audiences . . . and make viewers part of the show.

Clue Live!: An Outdoor Walking Experience is a family-friendly whodunnit based on the classic Hasbro board game Clue. It takes place outside, with local landmarks serving as the different locations, and actors playing the various suspects.

The premise is familiar to anyone who has played the board game: wealthy Mr. Boddy hosts a dinner party, to which six “colorful” guests — Mr. Green, Colonel Mustard, Dr. Orchid, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum and Miss Scarlett — have been invited. Before dinner is served, however, Boddy is found dead in the hallway . . . and it’s up to the audience members to figure out who committed the crime. 

Mr. Butler acts as the guide for small groups (physically distanced, of course), escorting “detectives” to each “room” (a different spot downtown) and suspect. The suspects then go into their spiel, providing some background, usually a motive (it would seem everyone has a reason to want to see Mr. Boddy dead) and share knowledge that can be gleaned for clues. The group may also ask each suspect three questions, in order to gain more clues. Per the rules of the production, the suspects are not required to share all of their knowledge, but they have to answer questions truthfully. By the time the last suspect is interviewed, the sleuths in the audience should have enough information to deduce the guilty party.

Immersive theatre has been big business in Los Angeles and other large cities for some time now. With a format that takes viewers out of the playhouse and into the “real world,” providing an up close and personal connection to the actors (sometimes, as in Clue Live!, obliterating the fourth wall altogether), it reveals the magic of theatre to those who previously had shunned or been indifferent to the art. There’s a reason Santa Paula’s GhostWalk has been a popular staple of Halloween for years.

In truth, Clue Live!, created by LA-based Right Angle Entertainment, is not as slick or thoughtfully scripted as GhostWalk. But it is delightful, and very accessible to people of all ages. Indeed, in our small group (seven total, split up among two different families), it was the youngest members who led the way, with their insightful questions and powers of deduction. But anyone who enjoys storytelling and a bit of mystery will have fun with this.

Costuming for the actors is spot on, and the cast members embody their characters with just the right ratio of camp to gravity, offering monologues that are informative without being pedantic. Mr. Butler keeps things moving along, and will even lend an assist during the final deliberations. The 90-minute experience, which probably covers about a city block’s worth of walking, seems to fly by. And for the record: There are three different versions, with three different murderers, throughout Clue Live!’s run, so there’s plenty of reason to go back for a second viewing.

Safe, engaging, outside, playful, colorful (ahem) and completely screen-free — what more could you ask of any spring production? Bring the family, face coverings, decent walking shoes and — for evening performances — an outer layer, and give this board-game-come-to-life a chance. Whether or not you solve the crime, a good time should be had by all.

Clue Live! An Outdoor Walking Experience is performed through May 2 in downtown Ventura. For schedule, tickets and more information, visit www.eventbrite.com/o/right-angle-entertainment-32861425965