BWW Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG Goes So Right at Orpheum
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is brilliant in every conceivable way. This crazy, madcap play within a play hit the stage of the Orpheum in Omaha last night and will run through November 4. Written by three graduates of the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Art, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, this cleverly crafted comedy cannot possibly be any funnier!
The plot is this: The Cornley University Drama Society is putting on a play in the US. Their production of "The Murder at Haversham Manor" centers around the murder of Charles Haversham on the eve of his engagement to fiancee Florence Colleymoore. The suspects include Charles' own brother Cecil, Florence's brother Thomas, and of course, the butler Perkins. Even Inspector Carter who is sent to investigate the murder is not above suspicion.
Meanwhile, the stage manager and the lighting and sound operator are drawn into the plot as they hand off props and fill in for missing actors.
Even the program is crazy. The title runs off the cover of the booklet. The actors' bios are those belonging to fictional actors portraying characters in the play. So, Yaegel T. Welch (in real life) is Jonathan Harris who plays the role of Charles Haversham. It's nuts, I tell you.
There is an advertisement in the program for Robert Grove's (Peyton Crim) School For Acting Perfectly--Cue Zoolander's "School For Kids Who Can't Read Good." Grove advertises four approved acting skills: Reacting, Gesturing, Emotioning, and Acting. Another inclusion is a note to the audience who may want to post comments regarding the show on social media, but are at a loss for words. There is a suggested list of words to use (good, best, awesome, well done, like-a-warm-bath) and words to avoid (bad, worst, excreting, icky, queasy, eek).
Also in the program is a letter from the 'president of Cornley University Drama Society and Director of the murder mystery, Chris Bean' (a character drawn from the British comedy Mr. Bean). The letter explains the evolution of the production that began with cutting out all parts that are not "behaving truthfully" resulting in a 17 minute run time, to adding back "under imaginary circumstances" and winding up with a two act, two hour play which is long enough to make your sides ache.
Much of the humor in THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is slapstick. But the timing, the excellence of the performers, and the sheer unexpected ridiculousness of the actions cause explosions of laughter. I am not sure there were more than a collective handful of minutes where the audience was not laughing. There is an invisible dog. There are freezes in action where the sound guy is busy listening to Duran, Duran rather than paying attention to cues. There are props that fall apart. There are floors that collapse. There are spit takes--a lot of spit takes. There is dialogue directly in opposition to the action taking place. There's even a reference to Nebraska being a "Flyover State." And my favorite: gross mispronunciations of words written on the palm of Perkins' hand.
What is even more "good, best, awesome, well done, and like-a-warm-bath" is the fact that this hysterical show is wildly successful without an F-bomb vocabulary or taking jabs at other people. You can feel safe in taking your family to seeing this play. And you should.
Well done! to this incredibly funny, talented cast that includes Scott Cote, Peyton Crim, Brandon J. Ellis, Angela Grovey, Ned Noyes, Jamie Ann Romero, Evan Alexander Smith, and Yaegel T. Welch. They richly deserved the thunderous applause and standing ovation.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel