Review: THE PLAY THE GOES WRONG at Wilmington Drama League

Now Running at Wilmington Drama League

By: Sep. 15, 2022
Review: THE PLAY THE GOES WRONG at Wilmington Drama League
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The end of summer blues got you down? A little stressed because you're going back to in-person work? Fear not! The Wilmington Drama League's production of The Play That Goes Wrong will put you in a much better mood. Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, and winner of the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, The Play That Goes Wrong is a delightful two hours of frivolity, farce, foolery and fun.

As the audience takes their seats, the play's Stage Managers, Annie and Trevor (Shelli Haynes Ezold and Shawn D. Kline, respectively), rush about the stage dealing with last minute details (a faulty door, an unattached mantel), or, in Trevor's case, approaching audience members to ask if they can help locate his missing Duran Duran CD. Lacking the necessary number of hands needed to complete all of those last minute set issues, Annie employs an audience member to assist. (Tip of the Day - Don't sit in front on House Left.) This prologue-esque interaction sets the wheels in motion for what eventually becomes every community theater's worst nightmare.

The Cornley Drama Society excitedly debuts its latest offering, The Murder at Haversham Manor. Stage Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Prop Maker, Box Office Manager, Press & PR Person, Dramaturg, Voice Coach, Dialect Coach, Fight Choreographer, Rehearsal Substitute for the role of Mr. Fitzroy, and performing the role of Inspector Carter - Chris Bean (played by Zachery Jackson) - graciously welcomes audience members, and provides a bit of the group's unfortunate (yet hilarious) history for newcomers. The lights dim, and The Murder at Haversham Manor (dun, dun, duuun) begins.

Now, I can't actually tell too much about the goings-on because I don't want to spoil any surprises. The need to knows are: the actors can't remember lines, the dead body keeps moving (with the help of others and under the actor's own volition), an actor fails to correctly pronounce words, the leading lady is unconscious, an actor struggles with the opposite sex, the actors find it difficult to break a dialog loop, the set slowly falls apart, props are misplaced, not all alcohol tastes good, casting an animal is tricky, and Stage Managers can only do so much to keep the show under control, especially when bitten by the acting bug.

Charles Haversham (Jonathan played by Tony DelNegro) has been murdered (or perhaps suicide, no... wait, murdered). Inspector Carter gathers all possible suspects - Charles' fiancé, Florence Colleymore (Sandra played by Meg Barton), her brother, Thomas Colleymore (Robert played by Peter Sweeney), the recently deceased's brother, Cecil Haversham (Max played by Jason Tokarski), and, of course, the Butler, Perkins (Dennis played by Alan Harbaugh). As the investigation meanders within the murder mystery, the real world antics broadly overtake the entire show to the point where the murder mystery completely unravels into nothing more than words being spoken by a few remaining actors simply to get to the end of the script and close the curtain.

The Play That Goes Wrong demands performers to engage in extreme physical comedy with finely-tuned timing. For the most part, the cast does quite well in its execution. I'm not certain if all cast members can muster the prolonged physicality as it seemed a few tired and slowed their pace. Or perhaps, that was intentional to illustrate the frustration of certain Cornley thespians. I enjoy slapstick comedy and good old-fashion pratfalls. The Play That Goes Wrong is chocked full of such action. The problem is, when the execution lags in speed or even goes on for too long, the funny fades. A few highlights for me were Mr. Tokarski's foot forward telephone answering skills and his doggone good pooch, as well as Ms. Barton's aptitude for oddly losing altitude, Mr. Sweeney's balancing ability, and Mr. DelNegro's break-through tumbles.

With all that needs to happen to create the complete and utter chaos and disaster in the show, it is a wonder that no one actually gets injured. The set design (Tony DelNegro, Trae Lee, David Sokolowski, Drew Walko) works quite well. Stage direction courtesy of Kristyn Walko is deliberate. However, the necessary over-charged pace of the show, both in speech and action, dwindles over time. The lighting (Matt Coyle) and sound (Jen Scorziello) competently serve their purpose. Costumes (Shelli Haynes Ezold) provide the appropriate look for the Cornley Drama Society. I venture to say that the magic happening during the show is largely due to the handiwork of the properties department (Cindy Schneeman) and stage crew (Kathy Buterbaugh, Abby Davis, Trae Lee, Meghan Morse, Sebastian Walko).

If you're looking for a stage play that doesn't require any deep thoughts and gives you a laugh and a half, then The Play That Goes Wrong is your ticket.

Script by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Stage Director: Kristyn Wallko
Runs September 9 through September 18

Wilmington Drama League
10 Lea Boulevard
Wilmington, DE 19802