Clue in the Fast Lane

By Beverley Cooper and Ann Marie MacDonald. Directed by Ilena Lee Cramer. A Screaming Weenie production. At the Odyssey Nightclub until April 29

"Who's the girl who cracks the case with every Titian hair in place?" It's Nancy Prew, the relentlessly perky teen detective! Nancy's time-travel adventures are the mystery at the heart of Clue in the Fast Lane.

Beverley Cooper and Ann Marie MacDonald's 1985 script is a witty spoof of Carolyn Keene's popular Nancy Drew mysteries, which generations of 20th-century girls grew up devouring. Screaming Weenie presents the play in three separate installments; the first displays a deliciously campy sensibility.

There's also a feminist undercurrent. It's 1955, and Nancy's just completed law school, but her father thinks she's more suited to being a legal secretary than a practising lawyer. She declines a marriage proposal from boyfriend Ted (who has "put himself through school by freelancing as a gynecologist"), saying she has better things to do. Clearly Nancy's not cut out for the '50s.

So maybe it's a blessing when she gets sucked into the vortex of Operation Good Ol' Days, a diabolical plot that's causing real and fictional 1950s icons to turn up in 1985. There, Nancy teams up with Janice, a clumsy babysitter with an obsessively morbid imagination, and finds her detective skills put to their greatest test ever.

Director Ilena Lee Cramer's minimalist staging wisely keeps the hilarious text front and centre, and her actors strike an exuberant note of parody without going too far over the top. Elda Pinckney is a note-perfect Nancy: wide-eyed, indefatigably cheerful, and fuelled by pride in her work. Christine Stoddard brings equal energy to cynical, loose-limbed Janice and to clueless Ted, and Amy Lucille Wilding plays Hanna, the Prews' housekeeper, with an outraged sense of propriety. Nadine Carew's costumes gleefully send up both the '50s and the '80s.

You don't have to be a Nancy Drew aficionado to appreciate the wit of Cooper and MacDonald's script, or the effervescent humour of this production. It's pure, goofy fun.