The cast of “Clue On Stage,” a classic whodunnit that will play at the Escondido Grand Tea Room beginning March 5. Left: Courtesy photo; Right: Photo by Christyl O’Flaherty Photography
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“Clue” comes to Grand Tea Room for 413 Repertory Production

ESCONDIDO — 413 Repertory Theatre will be returning for another atmospheric production at the Escondido Grand Tea Room on March 5 with “Clue On Stage.” 413 Rep. is an Escondido-founded company that specializes in dinner theater, wherein patrons will sit around enjoying a variety of hors d’oeuvres and other dinner delights while a show is performed right in front of them.

“Clue On Stage” is an off-Broadway production adapted from both “Clue” the film and the Hasbro-produced board game upon which it was based. The play was adapted by David Abbinanti and Jonathan Lynn, with additional material incorporated by Hunter Foster and Sandy Rustin. The story is a classic murder-mystery “whodunnit” with some comedy in the mix; a group of eccentric characters must discover who amongst them in Boddy Manor is a murderer before it’s too late.

Cast member and former Groundlings Theatre & School student Christopher Szabo has been rehearsing for his role as Wadsworth the Butler (played by Tim Curry in the film) since January; the show is Szabo’s first with 413 Rep. “It’s been good,” he said of his time with the company. “It’s been a learning experience, because this play that we’re doing is — relatively — a newer play, as far as licensing goes for this area.”

He noted that he will be incorporating only a few aspects of Curry’s take on the character in his own performance. “As you do with anything that’s a movie-to-stage adaptation, you want to maintain some of the flavor that the actors will bring in the movie set and bring that into the character, just to have a little, kind of like, head-nod to it, but I think a lot of it is like … you want to bring some originality to it, something that makes it a little bit different.”

One of the challenges of producing the play is having to accommodate for the fact that the Grand Tea Room, where the cast has been rehearsing, is a single dining area with relatively little space, which runs contrary to the fact that “Clue” takes place inside a sprawling mansion with multiple rooms.

“It’s been, actually, a fun process, because we get to play around with it and just add in more comedy to the already comedic play,” Szabo said. He described rehearsals as being akin to a comedy club show, with actors riffing off of one another in moments of improvisation.

But Szabo and the cast have also been careful not to accidentally break any of the fine china present in the room. He also practices with the knowledge that the cast will be surrounded on nearly all sides during actual performances and plans on incorporating the audience into the plot. “I’ll walk up to an audience member and I’ll be, like, ‘Here you are sir, if you don’t mind holding onto this for the entire show,’” he said, adopting an English accent.

“We got a really good cast and crew of people that are just excited to just perform for a bunch of people, and I think it’s gonna be a really good time,” Szabo said.

The show runs from March 5 to March 22. Tickets are $69 for night performances and $82 for Sunday matinees. Showtimes are 7 p.m. for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday.

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