by Mark G. Auerbach
The Cornley University Drama Society plays The Bushnell this week with their whodunnit,, “The Murder at Haversham Manor”, and the two hours of a third-rate drama society’s take on a third-rate murder mystery, titled The Play That Goes Wrong, is two hours of madcap mayhem onstage, and non-stop laughter from the opening curtain speech to the fumbled finale. Actors miss their cues, drop their lines, lose their props, miss their entrances, and fumble everything imaginable. It’s a symphony of schadenfreude, and one of the funniest evenings of theatre I’ve experienced in a long time.
Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields wrote The Play That Goes Wrong for England’s Mischief Theatre Company. With rave reviews, the comedy moved to London’s West End, and won the 2015 Laurence Olivier Award for “Best New Comedy”, and it’s still a bi hit on the London stage. The Broadway company opened in April, 2017 to rave reviews, where it’s running into January. This national tour at The Bushnell just launched mid-September in Pittsburgh..
Lewis, Sayer, and Shields have captured the worst nightmares of anyone who has participated onstage or off in community or amateur theatre, where everything goes astray. The Play That Goes Wrong also resembles the antics of a the hilarious Christopher Guest movie Waiting for Guffman and a similar British farce, Michael Frayn’s Noises Off. There is schtick, sight gags, slapsticks by the dozen, each one funnier than the next.
Humor like this is all in the timing, and director Matt DiCarlo, recreating Mark Bell’s original Broadway work, has every move timed and synched to the second. Nigel Hook’s Tony Award winning set is a star of this production, and the incredible acting ensemble has perfect timing all the way through an intricate ballet of actor, sets, and props.
The Bushnell’s Broadway Series seldom hosts non-musicals other than the more spectacle-oriented plays like War Horse and The Curious Incident of Dog in The Night Time. The Play That Goes Wrong, a production on a much smaller scale than the previous Broadway tenant, The Lion King, serves up an abundance of laughs. And with the 24/7 deliverance of bad news in the daily news cycle, The Play That Goes Wrong delivers more than enough laughs to lift anyone out of the doldrums.
The Bushnell presents The Play That Goes Wrong. by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. Directed By Matt DiCarlo. Original Broadway Direction By Mark Bell.. Scenic design by Nigel Hook. Costume design by Roberto Surace. Lighting design by Ric Mountjoy. Sound design by Andy Johnson. Cast: Scott Cote, Peyton Crim, Brandon J. Ellis, Angela Grovey, Ned Noyes, Jamie Ann Romero, Evan Alexander Smith, Yaegel T. Welch, Blair Baker, Jacqueline Jarrold, Sid Solomon, Michael Thatcher. Through September 30 at The Bushnell, Hartford, CT. 860-987-5900 or www.bushnell.org.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB Radio.