Everything Right About "The Play That Goes Wrong"
Have you ever had a day where you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Maybe you slept through your alarm, so that when you finally get up, it’s a mad dash to get ready for work. You forgo your makeup and coffee, throw on the closest pair of shoes you can find, and race out the door, only to trip up the stairs on your way back to pick up the phone you left behind. With a thoroughly twisted ankle, you begin limping your way to the train platform, holding up your fellow angry New Yorkers who, also probably late for work, begin their grumbling about the schmuck blocking the staircase. After six swipes of your metro card you finally make it onto the train, only to have someone cut in front of you just as the doors close. So you stand there on the platform, on your limping foot, still late for work and wondering how the day could have gone so wrong.
Imagine that scenario, magnified times ten, and you’ve got Off-Broadway’s latest gem, The Play That Goes Wrong.
The Play That Goes Wrong is about a play where, well—literally everything that can go wrong does go wrong from the very beginning. And when we say “beginning,” we mean before the show even officially starts. The curtains are open and the set remains exposed, showing construction workers, set designers, and stage managers running around trying to fix various aspects of the set. It starts off slowly with one or two people on stage - so slowly at first that you aren’t sure whether there really is a problem with the set, or if they are indeed real stage hands and not actors. As the show time inches nearer, it becomes clear that they are indeed part of the play. With the minutes ticking by, they become more and more frantic. Eventually, one frazzled stage hand enlists a random audience member to help, having him hold pictures in place, grab toolboxes, and assist with various prop installations. This preview of what was to come had the audience in hysterics, and the play hadn’t even officially started.
Besides being Off-Broadway’s best comedy, what is The Play That Goes Wrong actually about?The Play That Goes Wrong is essentially a play within a play. The fictional play is called “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” and is put on by The Cornley University Drama Society. “The Murder at Haversham Manor” is a Sherlock Holmes-esque murder mystery that involves shady backroom dealings, suspicious characters with nefarious motives, and a love triangle, but all of that is really secondary to watching the actors react to all of the things going wrong during the faux-performance A decrepit set, falling props, accidentally knocking characters unconscious—all of it is a delightful study in sophisticated slapstick.
One of the best parts about The Play That Goes Wrong is how the production consistently breaks the fourth wall. Audience members are spoken to as if they truly are part of the original audience for The Murder at Haversham Manor. It begins when the President of the Drama Society and the Director of The Murder at Haversham Manor introduces the work, and discusses how previous productions put on by The Cornley University Drama Society fared (hint: not well. James and the Giant Peace evidently became James and the Peach, which finally debuted as James, Where’s Your Peach?).
One of our favorite characters was the lighting director, “Trevor Watson”, played by Ryan Vincent Anderson. Trevor remained stationed in the “lighting/sound booth” above the stage—as an “intern” at Cornely, he was involved in production. His booth, which was decorated in Duran Duran memorabilia, remained lit the entire time. Audience member’s could see Trevor’s dumbfounded and at times appalled reaction to the lunacy unfolding during the performance. Watching his reactions was just as funny as seeing some of the stuff on stage!
At one point, Trevor really dismantles the barrier between actor/audience by handing out “Lost Dog” flyers during intermission. “Have you seen this dog?” the flyer reads above a picture of what is presumably a Cocker Spaniel. “His name is Winston. Please let me (Trevor) know if you do. He is the only good thing in Act 2. It’s in your best interests to assist my search. DO NOT approach him or surprise him. He is a biter.” The Play That Goes Wrong is a work that can only be described as hilariously interactive.
Another standout character to Music & Mojitos was that of Max Bennett/Cecil Haversham, played by Matt Walker. Max was a delightfully simple character with a goofy smile, who knew when he was doing well and would ham it up for the audience. He, in turn, would react visibly to applause, smiling and bowing in the middle of the play to acknowledge the praise. It seems that comedy comes natural to Walker—every time he appeared on stage, he put the audience in stitches.
Zany, wacky, and absolutely gut-busting hysterical are all words that would accurately describe The Play That Goes Wrong. From start to finish, the audience was howling with laughter. No, really—one audience member behind us was laughing SO hard, that it got us laughing, which made the play even that much funnier. The Play That Goes Wrong somehow managed enough camaraderie to turn a bunch of cynical New Yorkers into comrades in comedy for the night. And that, my friends, is a true sign of success.
The Play That Goes Wrong had an impressive run on Broadway with over 700 performances on stage. While its tenure at the Lyceum Theatre closed on January 6, 2019, the hilarity moved Off-Broadway to its current home at New World Stages. With fun for the whole family, you won't want to miss The Play That Goes Wrong - so be sure to purchase your tickets to see the onstage antics for yourself!