THEATER REVIEW: “The Play That Goes Wrong” @ Cleveland Play House by Laura Kennelly

Photos by Roger Mastroianni

Through 3/10

Whoops! If everything goes wrong in the Cleveland Play House’s current show, that means everything is going right! The Play That Goes Wrong, now at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre, shows farce at its best. One testimony to that is that the run of this play within a play has been extended to March 10, a week longer than planned, due to ticket demand.

Maybe it’s schadenfreude, but I think Clevelanders know how easy it is for things to go wrong and how cool it is to be able to not only make the best of it, but also to laugh about it. “River on fire? Bah, not stopping us,” etc. There’s probably no place, actually, that can’t relate. I saw this play years ago in London and am glad to see its regional professional premiere at Playhouse Square.

This “play within a play” is structured around the premise that it’s opening night for the Cornley Drama Society’s production of The Murder at Haversham Manor. What happens is funny. In fact, it’s hilarious.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it should suffice to say its hardy, athletic cast joins with some amazing construction experts to create the perfect set and then chew scenery as they tear around the murder site.

As we waited for the performance to begin, the set was exposed before us: an elegant living room in British upper-class style with framed portraits (of a King Charles Spaniel in military uniform), an old-fashioned grandfather clock, a balcony, velvet couch, and other posh touches.

A mystery is afoot, and we know someone must die: someone always dies or it’s not a mystery, right?

While we wait, the crew keeps adjusting fixtures on the set, a door sticks, something is out of place — just the usual fidgets. Hmmm. Worth speculating about what might go wrong? You bet. Consider that the authors — Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, and Jonathan Sayer — are all members of London’s Mischief Theatre, a theater that thrives on comic mishaps. (The trio’s Peter Pan Goes Wrong is another whacky show now touring in the United Kingdom.)

Director Melissa Rain Anderson shares top billing with Jason Paul Tate, fight and stunt director. Emma Sherban, construction draftsperson, and scenic designer Czerton Lim also helped make stage disaster possible every performance.

The cast features Jeffrey Marc Alkins, Josh Bates, Michael Doherty, Farah El-Ashram, Victoria Alev Duffy, Blake Henri, Dylan Ireland, Ben Liebert, Alfredo Ruiz, and Joz Vammer. And oh yes, they do double duty — playing the “real” actors and the “character” actors without breaking down into giggles.

That’s all right. The audience (a role I prefer anyway) made up for it with laughing.

Bottom Line: A first-class laugh fest that pokes gentle fun at murder mysteries, high drama, and ego with admirable craft (and carpentry). Highly recommended, especially in these days when summer is not here, and politics still is. We need laughs.

[Written by Laura Kennelly]

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One Response to “THEATER REVIEW: “The Play That Goes Wrong” @ Cleveland Play House by Laura Kennelly”


    Kind gentle charming and whacko and just the kind of entertainment I need more of as time unimaginatively regresses. Edward Mycue, here in San Francisco CA on the rim of what was once the direction young things were urged to head to before we learned the water is a wall. So just go crazy and read about anything your cultural laureate urges you to seek.

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