BWW Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG Keeps Audience Laughing at Cincinnati Aronoff
The Play That Goes Wrong is like a two-hour instructional video on how NOT to act, direct, stage manage, or run tech. In their opening night performance at Cincinnati's Aronoff Center, the cast committed every classic faux pas that inexperienced actors can make. The "deathtrap" of a set, inept stage management, and a distracted tech operator seemed to work against the flailing amateur actors leaving the audience...in stitches! The audience on Tuesday night was roaring with laughter before the play even officially started and happily returned (much to the surprise of the director) for the second act.
You see, The Play That Goes Wrong, playing at the Aronoff through December 2nd, features very good actors acting like very bad actors: an amateur drama club putting on a dismal failure of a murder mystery - and it is the most brilliant dismal failure we've seen on stage since Noises Off, a play to which you can't help but compare this. The difference between the two lies in just how far this show goes! It begins innocently enough with some minor farcical blunders and silly inside jokes (that anyone who has spent time on the other side of the curtain would understand). But that is not enough for The Play That Goes Wrong. The blunders eventually develop into full-blown calamities leading to the utter collapse of not only the integrity of the production, but of every literal, physical, and living object surrounding it.
Before the play even officially begins, the mantelpiece falls off the fireplace and no amount of duct tape will keep it in place. Then, the director (who also plays the inspector) comes out to introduce the play and starts his speech outside of his spotlight. The blackout lifts momentarily, and the audience sees an actor crouched on the stage floor. Blackness again. The same actor is now reclining on a chaise longue, breathing heavily even though he is supposed to be DEAD!
While it could safely be called The Play That Goes Very, VERY Wrong, there are numerous things that must go very, VERY right to pull it off. For instance, the cast must know a thing or two about timing - and this one certainly did with Ned Noyes as Max/Cecil, and Jamie Ann Romero as Sandra/Florence especially standing out for their exceptional physical skills. The direction, set, and tech must all be in top working order to prevent actual injury to the actors, and it was. I was never worried about them even as large portions of the set came crashing down around them and sometimes ON them!
The Play That Goes Wrong is a real success story for the tiny British theatre company, Mischief Theatre, whose three artistic directors, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, conceived and premiered the play in 2012. Since then it has enjoyed a long and successful run on Broadway produced by some mammoth Tony and Olivier award winning producers such as Kevin McCollum, (Rent, Avenue Q) and a little TV producer you might have heard of, JJ Abrams (Felicity, Lost, Westworld). Abrams is making his theatre producing debut with The Play that Goes Wrong.
Production photos by Jeremy Daniel