Chicago Reader

The improvised murder mystery Clued In is too slow-paced to be much fun

It makes you long for the Tim Curry movie.

Steve Heisler Sep 12, 2018 6:00 AM

One unspoken rule of improvisation is to never introduce a gun because the presence of a weapon artificially heightens scenes to the point of making them unrealistic. I'd argue murder falls into the same category as an improv faux pas, seeing as it's one of the most logical step after pulling a handgun. It derails scenes otherwise focused on relationships by raising questions about the plot: Who? Why? How? Naturally Clued In: An Improvised Murder Mystery includes at least one murder by design, and it similarly kills momentum and drags out each plot point.

The show is loosely structured. The group solicits an audience suggestion and designates a particular cast member as the detective. On opening night the show took place in a Kroger grocery store, and the improvisers took on the roles of the manager, his assistant, a butcher, and some shoppers. A few scenes in, the characters are witnesses to a dead body and blindly finger each other as the culprit.

The cast of Clued In cites Agatha Christie novels as its inspiration, though my mind leaps to Clue, specifically the 1985 film starring Tim Curry. Working within the same trappings (single location, unraveling a murder mystery), the movie introduced a new detail in every scene to arouse excitement and further the mystery. Clued In operates only at half speed: after the murder occurs, the scenes oscillate between interrogations and brief interactions, with the former as a device to rehash what happened in the latter. The slower the mystery unravels, the less thrilling the solution.   v

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