The Play That Goes Wrong

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Review by Dale Reynolds

Anybody who has ever been to a community, high school or college play knows that’s it’s possible something will go wrong – either major or minor – in some noticeable manner during the show (while it can happen to professionally-produced plays, it mostly doesn’t).

At any rate, that’s the premise behind this excellent production of a flawed farce. Good or great farce-comedy depends on more than just a modicum of reality – the stuff we believe in before it all goes haywire. The difference, for instance, between Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges.

The company of the national tour of “The Play That Goes Wrong.”

The Play That Goes Wrong” (by Brits, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company). is just that – from the pre-show mime of things on the paper-thin walls not sticking, to doors that won’t stay shut – heralded to other misfires such as an actor who cannot pronounce two-syllable words, an apparently gay actor not willing to kiss his character’s female love-interest but will a hunky stagehand, and a “murdered” character unable to stay “dead,” etc.

The premise is that the University Drama Society is presenting an Agatha Christie-like thriller, “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” a badly-written series of clichés, with an amateur cast making hash of what’s on the page. 

L-R: Ned Noyes and Jamie Ann Romero

The Play That Goes Wrong,” first produced in 2012, has had storied runs in London and New York, and is now on its first national tour. If one accepts the opening night’s audience as normal, it’s screamingly funny. Now, for this critic, the first act was a misery, everything so pointed and obvious, demanding painfully over-the-top acting from the cast, but after the intermission, the play suddenly made sense and, amid mayhem of missed-entrances and a slowly sinking second story, the laughs became more organic, and merriment reigned.

Directed for this tour by Matt DiCarlo (from the original work of the Broadway production of Mark Bell) the talented and nubile cast generally made it look fun. All eleven actors were on-target, with bass-baritone Peyton Crim and sultry Jamie Ann Romero as mentally-challenged brother-and-sister standing out, along with Angela Grovey as a befuddled stage manager and Ned Noyes as the taking-a-bow-when-not-entitled brother of the murdered aristocrat (Yaegel T. Welch) who can’t stay still. 

L-R: Angela Grovey, Yaegel T. Welch and Jamie Ann Romero

Depending on one’s awareness of bad non-professional theatre, and a willingness to go along with its madness on a well-constructed set (Nigel Hook) eccentric lighting (Ric Montjoy), and well-thought-out costume design (Roberto Surace), a good time is to be had. Just be willing to sink into the demands of “bad” theatre produced by unfettered professionalism.

The Play That Goes Wrong continues at the Ahmanson Theatre – Temple at Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, until August 11th, 2019. 

Tickets:  www.CenterTheatreGroup.org  or 213.972.4400