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Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, Theatre Raleigh

Going wrong has never been so fun

Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, Theatre Raleigh

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG might just be one of the funniest concepts to grace the stage of a theater in the past fifty years. The play, by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, and Jonathan Sayer, depicts a theater group putting on a performance of "The Murder at Haversham Manor" that goes disastorously wrong from its first minutes. I saw the show in London (where it originally opened in 2012) four years ago and can confirm that the current production at Theatre Raleigh is every bit as funny as the original.

The show depicts a play within a play, with each actor playing both their actor and character roles. Even before the show starts, some of the actors are in the house, already in character "prepping" for the show. And from these very first minutes, it's clear that the production is ill-fated. The set is falling apart, the actors are forgetting lines and breaking character, and the tech crew are scrambling. It perfectly combines verbal humor and physical comedy to ensure that the audience is laughing the whole way through.

Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, Theatre Raleigh Nat M. Sherwood is fantastic as the stage manager Annie, who gets pulled into playing a role after an actor is injured and transforms from looking afraid of each line to ruthlessly fighting for her time in the spotlight. Happy Mahaney is excellent both as the head of the theater troupe and in his role as Inspector Carter, bringing the same manic energy that he did to CITY OF ANGELS in an almost Taika Waititi-esque manner.

There's a gag early on in the show with Khalil Lesaldo's Charles, who is laid out on the couch murdered but is flinching every time another actor steps on his hand as he walks back and forth. LeSaldo managed to tread the line of reacting strongly enough to draw the audience's attention without ever crossing the line into too camp or cartoony.

But it's Jeff Ronan, as both Cecil and Arthur, who continually stole the show, as he responded to the audience's applause and laughter, hamming it up for further reactions from them. His overexaggerated hand motions, acting out his lines, had the audience in stitches no matter how many times he did them. It's a testament to his skill that he was able to keep the same schticks going throughout the two-hour runtime without them ever feeling repetitive or boring.

Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, Theatre Raleigh Aside from the incredible comedic talent of the actors, much of the success of the play can be attributed to the incredible set designed by Chris Bernier. Not only is it beautiful, but the way that it falls apart is so impressive that it had the audience gasping out loud. Even after much contemplation, there were effects that I couldn't figure out. It's a play that requires a strong directorial hand to ensure that all the action can go off without mistakes that could injure actors and director Tim Seib certainly proved his worth.

I have never heard an audience respond to a play the way that they did to THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG. It felt like being at an opening weekend screening of "Avengers Endgame." There were times that lines almost got lost because the audience couldn't quiet down enough to hear them. If you have the chance to get to Theatre Raleigh to see this production, definitely don't miss it. Never before has everything going wrong seemed so right.

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is at Theatre Raleigh through September 25. You can find more information and buy tickets here.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Robertson Photography




From This Author - Nicole Ackman

Nicole Ackman returned to her native Raleigh, North Carolina after living in London and New York City. She studied communications and history at Elon University and earned her Master’s in Art... (read more about this author)


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