BWW Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at Mirvish is Outrageously Fun
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG has to be the loudest I've ever heard a Toronto audience laugh. The hilarious farce has captured the essence of what most theatre professionals spend their lives fearing. It takes the unpredictable nature of live theatre and exaggerates the hell out of it.
An immersive experience is created by the actors right from the beginning. Angela Grovey roams through the audience as the stage manager, Annie, asking if anyone has a dog they could volunteer for the second act. The encounter led to this reviewer appearing on stage at the start of the show in a comedic bit. Talk to Annie before the show and you could end up on the stage of the Ed Mirvish!
Evan Alexander Smith plays Chris, the President of the Cornell University Drama Society - a community theatre company putting on a production of The Murder of Haversham Manor. This takes us into a strange play-within-a-play vortex - or I suppose, a play within an immersive theatrical experience. Smith's plays Chris, who plays Inspector Carter in the play - a detective hired to investigate the death of Charles Haversham. As a hilarious romp on the structure of so many community theatre companies, Chris is also listed in the program as the play's director, designer, prop maker, box office manager, fight choreographer - the list goes on.
The murder mystery is rather straightforward - a man has died, and Inspector Carter must determine who killed him. If only it ran smoothly. The comedy comes from the fact that, as the title suggests, absolutely everything goes wrong on stage. It the disaster begins with the actors. We have Smith brimming with anxiety as Chris, playing the Inspector - Chris is desperate for everything to go off without a hitch. Scott Cote plays Dennis, who plays the butler, Perkins. In an effort to remember his lines, Dennis has written a series of "difficult" words on his hand - but of course, he can't pronounce a single one of them correctly. Ned Noyes plays Max, who plays Cecil Haversham. Max is that person we've all met, who steps onto the stage, gets a reaction from the audience, and then starts hamming up every move for a laugh. Yaegel T. Welch plays Jonathan, who is tasked with playing the corpse, Charles. Unfortunately, Jonathan has a very difficult time staying dead - as the other actors step on his hands and bump into him with random objects.
After Jamie Ann Romero (playing Sandra, who is playing Florence Colleymoore) gets knocked unconscious, Grovey (playing stage manager Annie) subs in with a script. Because it's an outrageous comedy, Annie eventually trips and the pages go flying out of order. The one actor who seems to keep it all together is Peyton Crim (playing Robert, who is playing Thomas Colleymoore). Bass-voiced Crim is so dedicated to his role in the play that he will do everything and anything to keep the show moving - even as nearly every single set piece around him falls apart or goes missing. "The show must go on," has never been taken so literally or with so much dedication!
Apart from the obvious physical comedy, the book of the show is quite clever in the way that the lines from the "play" have been designed to interact with the physical incidents. For instance, the Sherry prop is exchanged with a bottle of paint thinner as finishing touches are being put on the set. The actors are then forced to drink (and then enthusiastically spit out) paint thinner, while exclaiming things like, "I really needed that," etc. I don't want to give too much away, but the book does a fantastic job of finding those moments that are ripe for witty interaction with the physical comedy.
My only criticism of the experience is that by the end, the farce gets too out of control. Too much of a good thing is just too much - and by the end of the show, we were all a little tired from so much laughing.
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG packs a tremendous amount of comedy into just over two hours. If you're an actor or have any experience in the theatre, it might even hit close to home at some moments! A director friend mentioned that it was hard to laugh at certain scenes because they were just too real. Personally, I spent the evening in stitches laughing - nearly crying during a scene involving a grandfather clock. THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is a fine example of theatrical comedy at its best and is not to be missed.
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG runs through February 10, 2019 at Mirvish's Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St., Toronto, ON.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit mirvish.com/shows/the-play-that-goes-wrong
Main photo credit: Jeremy Daniel