BWW Review: So Wrong, It's Right in THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at Clowes Memorial Hall
The premise is simple: a theatrical group who comes together in the hopes of producing their first "professional" performance, a dramatic murder mystery. The action of it is far from simple as everyone's best intentions turns into everyone's worst nightmares. The Play That Goes Wrong is burgeoning with classic physical humor and over-the-top personalities that will consume your attention from start to finish.
I had heard tell that The Play That Goes Wrong was exceptionally funny, had even heard it directly from cast member Chris French (Jonathan Harris), but nothing could prepare me for the tidal waves of humor and laughter that enveloped me opening night. Creating humor is a craft that takes excellent timing and no small amount of charisma. Every single cast member produced that in abundance. I laughed so hard and so long that my face was fixed in a massive smile by curtain call.
There are a few "insiders' tips" that will make this play even more entertaining from the outset. First, be sure to show up a bit early. The cast begins the comedy before the true action ever gets started. This is all the work of Ashley D. Kelley (Annie Twilloil) and Ryan Vincent Anderson (Trevor Watson). They set the stage both literally and figuratively with their pre-show antics. Second tip, check out the first few pages of the program to get to know the characters. It's not only funny but also gives you insight into the development of the characters' characters.
It is nearly impossible to pick a standout in a cast of so much talent. However, I personally enjoyed the talents of Adam Petherbridge as Max Bennett. He had a clear personality as his character as well as a clear personality as the actor behind the character. His reactions to the audience were priceless. I also could not get over the physicality of Chris French as Jonathan Harris, AKA the dead body. He may have been dead for the majority of the play, but his acting was beyond lively.
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG was a welcome escape from everyday stressors that bring you down. It left me feeling lighter than when I arrived, and I felt refreshed by the whole experience. It will give me memories to turn to when I just need a good laugh.
Literally not a single second goes by where the audience - my and wife and I included - isn't howling, chuckling, or doubling over laughing starting before the show even begins until the final bow. Quick tip: be sure to be in your seat about 10 minutes early, and be sure to read the program, so you don't miss the clever preshow set-up of what's to come.
With an intense devotion to the saying "the show must go on," The Play That Goes Wrong is a ridiculous comedy in which a group of actors are resolute in putting on their murder mystery all while contending with falling set pieces, unconscious cast members, faulty props, and a inattentive sound operator.
Written and created by the uproarious team of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, with direction from Matt DiCarlo (following the original Broadway direction by Mark Bell), the theatrical spoof (after its premiere in London and winning the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2015) is within the format of a play-within-a-play, in which a university drama troupe puts on a fictitious 1920's murder mystery called The Murder at Haversham Manor. When an endless string of "minor disasters" wreak havoc on opening night, the cast and production team maintain their disastrous performance with a last-ditch commitment until the end.
Nigel Hook's Tony Award winner of a set design played a central aspect in the spoof, but in no way did it suffer in the smaller venue and stage of Clowes Hall. In my opinion, it happened to benefit and offered closer and more intimate experience for the audience, and offered nice sight-lines from the side seating, which can be difficult in boxes. Costuming by Roberto Surace evoked the era of the 1920's perfectly and contributed well to silliness of the show.
Honestly, the best part of the show were the effects and I was often left wondering, "how did they do that?" With a door on the set that refuses to open or close to wall decoration that crashes to the ground perfectly on time, to some pyrotechnics, the technical aspects of the show are a wonder and something I've never seen in a show. The actors themselves are complete masters of all-things physical comedy that is so perfect in a farce.
Don't miss your chance to see what's right about things going wrong until March 1st!