Friday, March 25, 2022

The Play That Goes Wrong (Broadway)


To say that the theater group of Cornley University is struggling is an understatement. In fact, Chris Bean (Matt Harrington) who serves as director, set and costume designer, box office manager, PR head, voice and dialect coach, choreographer, and actor, among others, has his hands full with everything that is going wrong in their staging of the whodunit play The Murder at Haversham Manor. Lighting and sound operator Trevor Watson (Ryan Vincent Anderson) and stage manager Annie Twilloil (Ashley Hildreth) try in vain to make last-minute repairs onstage but can’t manage to finish everything as the curtains drop. Newbie actor Dennis Tyde (Bartley Booz) who plays Perkins goes on mispronouncing words while benefactor Max Bennett (Matt Walker) who portrays two different characters keeps on making the show all about him. As primadonna lead actress Sandra Wilkinson (Maggie Weston) is literally knocked out cold by a damaged set piece, the rest of the cast, which includes Robert Grove (Brent Bateman) and Jonathan Harris (Chris Lanceley), must prove their thespian versatility to ensure that the show must go on.

The style is borderline slapstick and kept reminding me of Something Rotten. Later I found out that the two share the same producer, which explains the similarities. The play is basically a comedy of errors, a play within a play that blurs the line between acting and reality. Most of the time you can no longer distinguish whether what’s happening is in the play you are watching or within the play inside the play that you are watching. Despite the comedy predominantly stemming from the physicality of it all, what amuses me the most is how this comedy shines a light on how difficult it is to mount a theater production.

Having said that, come on, how do you INTENTIONALLY make everything go wrong without risking something going wrong for real? I mean, the mispronounced words and forgotten lines all depend on the brilliance of your actors to make it not so obvious that they are just acting, but those falling walls and props? It takes great skill to choreograph those “accidents” without ending up causing a real accident. I can only imagine the amount of practice and coordination that it takes between cast and crew to make sure that The Play That Goes Wrong goes wrong according to plan without anything actually going wrong.

As for the cast, I have nothing but sheer admiration for their dedication. Aside from being such naturals in comedy, their rapport also makes sure that everything is cohesive and not just for show. You enjoy a comedy play the most when you can feel that the actors themselves are also having fun. That kind of energy is hard to fake, you know. Considering how this play is such a riot, the theater was just erupting in laughter all the time, not quite as ROFL as The Book of Mormon, but almost there. Simply put, this is a fun comedy of errors that you won’t regret watching. Even more than once!

Anyway, despite being tagged as Off-Broadway, the New World Stages is just walking distance from Hell’s Kitchen and Broadway itself, conveniently located at West 50th. If you haven’t seen this yet, then what are you waiting for? The play shares the multi-theater building with Jersey Boys, in case you want to see that gem too. Overall, a wildly enjoyable one act play within a one act play about anything that can go wrong in staging a play. Rest assured, you are going to have one hell of a good time.

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