TGIF: The show must go on at the Lyric, and it does with 'Clue'
Konstantin Stanislavski famously said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”
Audiences at Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre haven’t had a better example of that than the comedy whodunnit “Clue” on stage this weekend.
Theatrical historians explain that when Stanislavski’s company, the Moscow Art Theatre, toured the world, audiences were amazed not only at the way lead actors performed their characters with depth and truth, but also how the actors in the background moved with a sense of purpose. They were not mere spectators; rather, they were actors fully committed to achieving their characters’ objective, whether they had a speaking role or not.
In “Clue,” even the supporting players have some lines, but most of the primary characters — the ones like Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum you remember from the Parker Brothers board game — are on stage for extended periods of time. But if you happen to be in the audience, and I hope you will be, don’t let your attention be focused too intently on the characters in the spotlight, so to speak. There’s all sorts of funny business going on away from the dialogue much of the time.
Seating is reduced for this show in order to comply with COVID-19 distancing, so reservations are best made online and in advance. One of the shows from last weekend’s schedule actually sold out. It’s likely that one or more of this weekend’s performances this weekend will be sold out as well.
Several factors are at play. First is the show itself — general familiarity, the reputation of the performers, and the excitement brought by an experienced volunteer cast including several Lyric newcomers. In addition, the community is ready for some entertainment after almost a year of near isolation due to the virus, not to mention last week’s painfully cold stretch. This is also the last show that longtime Brownwood resident Larry Mathis will direct for the Lyric before he and his wife move to Georgetown.
After a distinguished career as theater director at Brownwood High, Mathis exercised his talents in community theater in recent years, not only directing Lyric shows but also appearing in several.
Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Lyric board of directors, so please excuse my enthusiasm. But frankly, you don’t need to be personally connected to the Lyric to become excited about any of its productions. It never ceases to amaze me how much talent the Brownwood community has for such a relatively small population base. However, I dare say that this presentation of “Clue” is quite deserving of the accolades it’s been receiving.
Having said that about the overall quality of Lyric shows, I must admit that I have my favorites. Until now, I’ve tended to separate them into my “favorite Lyric musical” and my “favorite Lyric non-musical.” However, “Clue” has forced me to create a third classification, which is my “favorite comedy whodunnit.” If that category is too narrow, I’ll just have to rationalize it somehow. “Clue” is a favorite now, but I can’t allow it to overtake the longstanding “non-musical” that’s still on top for me.
Forgive me, but I’m keeping my list to myself.
The pandemic forced sweeping changes throughout our society during the past year, and the Lyric Theatre did not escape those upheavals. Several shows had to be cancelled in 2020. But our community is blessed that Lyric programs are resuming as we emerge from this dark time in history. To use another show business platitude, “the show must go on.”
Performers invest countless hours rehearsing, and support crews contribute other skills and talents to create sets, lighting, and sound effects. And their families deserve recognition as well, because they often rearrange personal schedules and responsibilities in order to make these shows possible.
An outstanding lineup of shows is planned this year, and season “patron” tickets are available. Details are provided on the Lyric’s website. “The show” is indeed “going on,” so don’t miss out on outstanding theater in 2021.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.