The Play That Goes Wrong
Theater Pizzazz loves having two writer reviews on the same show. Here’s one!
By Sandi Durell
Murder, mayhem, and Mischief – the Mischief Theatre company straight from three years on the West End and an Olivier Award, has found it’s way into the Lyceum Theatre where this farce is causing a lot of silly, spontaneous laughter whether you sometimes want to, or not, but just can’t help it. You know you’re in for trouble when the lighting and sound operator, Trevor (Rob Falconer), scurries around the theater pre-show searching for his Duran Duran CD talking to patrons.
Co-written by company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, it’s a play within a play put on by the ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’- a 1920s murder mystery entitled The Murder at Haversham Manor. Leave it to the British, in the spirit of Noises Off, One Man-Two Guvnors and 39 Steps, to invent these ridiculous circumstances where the key to success is making certain that what can go wrong, will; and with such precision in timing that it’s hard to believe this is what they actually rehearsed and intended. How many wrongs will ever make a right? All, in this play.
When Charles Haversham (Greg Tannahill) bumbles out on the stage to take his spot on a settee as dead, all hell breaks loose when he is found by the doddering butler Perkins (Jonathan Sayer) and his new awkward fiancée Florence (Charlie Russell) known for her hysterical episodes. It’s one sight gag after another as things collapse on the fireplace mantel, necessitating the stage manager Annie (Bryony Corrigan) to physically throw her arms through holes to hold things up, and more.
Doors are slamming, windows are opening/closing, paper pieces of snow are falling, lines are dropping and retrieved, along with props, as cast members are literally swinging from rafters, riding up and down in an elevator in this “improbably produced” play in its unrelenting ability to get everything wrong – and it does as it should. Enter Florence’s brother Thomas (Henry Lewis) and Charles’ brother Cecil (Dave Hearn) who also plays Arthur the Gardner in Act II, chain in hand leading an imaginary dog, who has been having an affair with Florence.
Finally the Inspector (Henry Shields) arrives to solve the murder. But everything keeps going awry, even Charles appearing and re-appearing. And poor Florence is knocked out as Annie steps in, script in hand, to take up the plight as ingénue.
It’s mugging aplenty, slapstick neuroses, mishaps, mis-steps and mis-spokens, tinged with sword fights, injuries and interesting bloody interpretations as the culprit is finally revealed, and little by little everything just . . . falls apart in this let loose chaotic comedy supremely directed by Mark Bell. The less than desirable construction of this house of cards English Manor is brilliantly conceived by Nigel Hook; costumes by Roberto Surace; lighting by Ric Mountjoy and sound by Andrew Johnson.
The Play That Goes Wrong – Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45 Street, run time: 2 hours, 5 minutes with intermission, thru September 3, 2017.
Photo: Jeremy Daniel