BWW Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at Des Moines Performing Arts, An Evening of Theatre That Goes Right!
If you are coming to read a review of The Cornley University Drama Society production of "The Murder at Haversham Manor," this is the wrong review. If you've heard of this theatre company, then it is probably because you've seen a show called, "The Play That Goes Wrong," which is playing at the Civic Center this week as the closing production of Des Moines Performing Arts 2018-2019 Willis Broadway Series.
Before getting too far in this review, I want to take a moment to commend Jeff Chelesvig and Des Moines Performing arts for including plays the last few seasons as part of the season ticket package. It amazes me how much contrast there is in the plays they bring. I was in awe a few years ago by the puppetry of "War Horse, stunned by the complexity of the movement in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," and now this year I can add tickled by the comedy of "The Play That Goes Wrong." While this next season does not feature a play, due to lack of a plays touring, I am excited by the options that could be coming the following season with two plays announcing tours, "The Ferryman" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." I don't think Des Moines Performing Arts can go wrong with either play and personally, I wouldn't be disappointed if both came as part of the season.
This show will have you laughing before the it even starts, and you won't stop laughing until the show is over. As soon as you walk into the auditorium, there is a group of crew members putting last minute touches on the set. Slowly, you start to realize that they are the actors in the show. The humor to me started when they pulled a member of the audience to help with a few things on stage. The mishaps that started happening was only a glimpse into what was going to happen during the evening. It was a great way to warm up the audience and get them laughing.
So many times when you go to see a comedy, it is all about the actors timing. While that is true with this show, the same could also be said about the set. After seeing the show last night, it is no surprise that set designer, Nigel Hook, walked away with the 2017 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play. The way he designed the set showed his understanding of how small theatre companies work. Many times the people building the sets aren't set designers and dont have the skills that come with being trained to build them. This set is brilliantly designed in that manner. The mishaps that happen onstage with the set are things I could easily see happening at a small theatre, with limited carpentry skills, and limited budget.
In order for "The Play That Goes Wrong" to happen without anything going wrong, you need a group of actors that understand timing and know how to play the show's slapstick humor. If one actors timing is off, it will be catastrophic to the show. The cast in this touring production pull off both the timing and humor effortlessly. Narrowing down which performances to review was difficult with this show as each actor has moments that had me in tears laughing. So the actors performances I've chosen to write about are the performances that I feel will give the least away about the show.
The first performance is Peyton Crim as Robert. Throughout the evenings performance, I felt he had to take on the most physical humor in the show. The way he plays some of the more physical gags in the show had me laughing but also showed that in the wrong hands, someone could have easily been hurt. I wont go into to much detail, but this is most evident in Act 2. Another one of his gags involves multiple spit takes. What amazed me is how he was able to make each of them different, as well as continued to grow in humor as the night went on.
Another stand out for me was Angela Grovey. She was one of the actors who played the crew before the show. During the opening, you can see as more people came in, the shyer she became. When circumstances leave the cast without the lone actress in the show, her character very reluctantly starts performing the female role. We then get to see her confidence start to build. Her character reminded me that sometimes when you take a chance on casting someone for the first time, it sparks love and passion for theatre that continues to grow. With Angela's performance, we got to see that growth on stage, in a humorous way.
As they have done before, Des Moines Performing Arts has brought one of the best plays to Des Moines. "The Play That Goes Wrong" is a not to be missed night of theatre where everything seems to go right. Tickets are still available for the run through Sunday Tickets run from $36-$121. To find out more about the show or to purchase tickets, visit https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/1819-the-play-that-goes-wrong/
While this show may be closing the season for Des Moines Performing Arts, they have announced their new season with includes a 6 show season ticket package including Broadway hits "Mean Girls," "Come From Away," "Anastasia," "My Fair Lady," "The Band's Visit," and an all-new production of "Jesus Christ Superstar."