BWW Review: Everything Right With THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at The Straz Center For The Performing Arts
Is there a proper way to describe the best worst play ever? If I was in the audience for "The Murder at Haversham Manor," I probably would have walked out. Before the play even began, scenery was falling, the door wouldn't stay closed and the weary stage manager brought out duct tape.
In the show, the cast missed lines, said lines in the wrong order, over-acted, or couldn't even pronounce words. The dead guy could not stay dead. Prop booze got replaced with paint thinner. The sound guy blew cues. The female lead got knocked out and had to be replaced with the fumbling stage manager. The pregnant pauses could have literally given birth. One of the main actors randomly hammed it up for the audience and the stage literally fell apart.
Thank God I was in the audience for the British farce "The Play that Goes Wrong" and these crazy mishaps were all part of the insanity of a brilliantly-engineered, purposely technically-flawed production of "The Murder at Haversham Manor," one messed-up exquisitely funny performance.
Evan Alexander Smith as Inspector Carter/Director Chris Bean apologized in advance, citing previous shows on their limited budget like "The Lion and the Wardrobe" and "Cat." It was the Cornley University Drama Society's presentation of an Agatha-Christie-ish murder mystery and everyone was suspect.
For anyone in theatre, who has performed on stage or managed the actors, sounds, and props behind the scenes, this was the worst-case scenario brought vividly to life.
If anything could possibly go wrong, it did. Over and over and over again.
If you've ever had a door not open on stage during an important exit, an imperative prop not be where it was supposed to be or line repeated, as a professional you know to carry on, do what you have to do to keep the scene moving forward, don't repeat the dialogue. As professionals emulating amateurs, the cast tried to do what their director would expect to keep the story on track, but every move kept backfiring.
I have not laughed this much in 289 days or, well, this year.
The entire show was a never-ending deluge of pratfalls, hysterical facial expressions, spontaneous dance routines, and unexpected audience interaction. Ned Noyes who played Max Bennett as Cecil Haversham enjoyed the love of audience and broke the fourth wall many a playful time.
To make it even more authentic (or confusing when you're trying to determine the actor's REAL name), the actors playing the characters on stage had a bio in the playbill of the fake actor in the production of "The Murder at Haversham Manor."
Compliments to Yaegel T. Welch who played Jonathan Harris as Charles Haversham. His turned-head, arms-crossed definition of what it was to be dead had the audience in stitches every time he appeared some place he wasn't supposed to be.
During the course of the production, you'll learn why desperate lines like "a ledger" by Evan Alexander Smith (Chris Bean as Inspector Carter) will make any good prop manager mortified and "have an episode" to Angela Grovey as stage manager Annie and to Brandon J. Ellis, light / sound tech Trevor will make the show director wince.
Jamie Ann Romero was outstanding as the fiancée of the departed. Her Florence Colleymoore was over-the-top and the fight between the two versions of Florence was reminiscent of "Monty Python," "I Love Lucy" and other beloved vintage-era shtick.
Peyton Crim (Robert Grove as Florence's brother Thomas) with his booming voice, spat out booze and was frustrated by the repeatedly poor pronunciation of the affable butler Perkins (Scott Cote playing Dennis Tyde).
If you don't leave this show feeling lighter than you entered, if you didn't laugh until your ribcage hurt over the sheer amount of physical comedy - actors getting hit by doors, falling on floors or through windows, holding up scenery, getting smacked by other actors - then you may have more in common with the before-transformation image of Scrooge or The Grinch.
There was absolutely no deep meaning to be sought in this hapless production, just extremely talented actors having a really good time and we were lucky enough to witness the mayhem.
(And if you find a Duran Duran cd, it belongs to the sound and lighting guy Trevor, I mean Brandon.)