Review by Liz Eichler of “The Play That Goes Wrong”: Broadway in Cincinnati
If you’re in need of a good chuckle (aren’t we all) imagine 2 hours of sustained belly laughs – that what you find in “The Play That Goes Wrong,” part of the Broadway in Cincinnati series. Recently closed on Broadway, many of the top notch professionals have joined the tour bringing one of the best evenings of theatre around.
It is a farce. No heavy thinking involved. It is physical comedy and word play. A whodunit in a stereotypical but beautiful English estate, complete with study, butler, gardener, and a little hanky panky.
It is the story of a hapless theatre troupe (the Cornley University Drama Society) mounting a play (“The Murder at Haversham Manor”), and things go terribly wrong because the members of the troupe are either incredibly naïve, overworked, pompous, forgetful, or just plain over-actors. And when you think things have fallen apart as much as it can—they fall apart even more. The melodrama they are mounting is so melodramatic, and the “theatre troupe” so incredibly inept, it is hysterical to watch—because the real performers are so incredibly talented with physical comedy and timing.
That is the secret of this play…timing. Timing the laughs, timing the silence, timing the looks. There’s a lot of other key timing, catching books or keys thrown, and more.
This show is funny for every audience, but an extra hoot to anyone who has spent anytime backstage knowing that things do go wrong, and actors and crew have to make split second choices. Sometimes they work, but this is a smorgasbord of bad choices in set dressing and ensemble work – all great fun for the audience.
The cast consists of the deep-voiced Peyton Crim (Robert), Ned Noyes (the misogynist Max), Scott Cote (Dennis) with a limited vocabulary, Brandon Ellis (Trevor) with a Duran Duran fixation, Yaegel T Welch (Johnathan, who plays the most undead dead body), Jamie Romero (Sandra), Angela Grovey (Annie), and Evan Alexander Smith (Chris) who may have the most stage time to demonstrate his impeccable timing (except for mentioning Cleveland).
Also to note is the set by Nigel Hook, the costumes, by Roberto Surace, and the lighting by Ric Mountjoy. All three scenic elements must perform over and above the usual call for a show – and they do. Great work by tour director Matt DiCarlo, based on the original direction by Mark Bell. The play was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields and is quite a celebration of the good, the bad and the ugly things that have happened on a local stage. I saw this show in a much smaller theatre on Broadway last year and it loses little in the translation to the tour.
An integral part of the show is the audience, as the actors react and present directly to you–the people. So I guarantee you will have an evening of laughter at “The Play That Goes Wrong,” playing now through December 2 at the Aronoff Center, as part of the Fifth Third Broadway in Cincinnati series. Contact cincinnatiarts.org for tickets.