Imagine Faulty Towers at its craziest. Then mix in broken props, collapsing scenery, forgotten lines, inept stagehands, all while an Agatha Christie mystery breaks out, and you have The Play That Goes Wrong.
Not one for slapstick, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much, but I have to admit I was won over. The entertainment begins well before the play starts. An usher seems to be berating an audience member for taking a picture, the stagehands are warning about falling lights, and another audience member is helping hold the set together as last-minute fixes are panicky being made to various items.
The play begins as any murder mystery with ‘a death in the parlour’. We are introduced to the mandatory British inspector, the brother, the fiancee and of course the butler. But from lights up (before the actors are properly in place), we realize this is going to be different. Doors won’t open, props are interchanged, cues are missed, lines are forgotten, stagehands have to fill in for incapacitated actors, and, literally, the walls come tumbling down.
Though the slapstick is indeed funny, the funniest moments are in how the actors, who are playing amateur actors, try and fully embody “the show must go on”, by forging on while disaster happens all around them. Memorable is Robert Grove managing to keep together a whole office when the floor gives out, holding onto a full desk, chair, world globe, Christmas tree all while trying to answer the phone. Priceless.
Personally, my favourite scenes are where the lines get out of synch – there is a whole scene where the actors are off by one line which is brilliant. Another where one actor keeps accidentally restarting a scene by flubbing a line. Or a stand-in reading lines drops the script and picks up random pages to read. All great.
I did feel there a few too many things falling off walls, spits of water, and fake snows, however, every actor is so strong, these complaints are trivialities. If anybody reading this is an actor or a stagehand, they will instantly remember a scene they were in where something went wrong. Imagine that multiplied by 500 and you have the craziness that is the award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong. Five hundred wrongs do make a right. This is worth seeing.
The Play That Goes Wrong
Until January 6th, 2019
Lyceum Theatre, 149 W 45th St, NYC