Review: ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ at Lyceum Theater

By Jonathan Spira on 10 April 2017
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Woe be to the reviewer of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” the smash hit that recently crossed the Atlantic from London’s West End. Apparently, when it comes to this production, just about everything can go wrong.

My 2015 review of the original production was almost published under the headline “Review: The Play That Went Wrong” and I didn’t make it to the opening in the United States thanks to a case of food poisoning, which fortunately wasn’t due to what Perkins the butler, given his penchant for repeatedly mangling the Queen’s English, kept referring to as cayennidday (although the rest of us would call it cyanide).

The show has been hell bent upon destroying itself for more than two years in London, where it won the Olivier Award for best comedy. Indeed, I had innocently asked the show’s producer, Mark Bentley, the night I attended at the Duchess Theatre, whether I could photograph the cast on the set after the performance. “I don’t think the set will really be suitable for that after the performance,” he said, without giving away what lay in store.

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The show’s three creators, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, all members of the Mischief Theatre Company, channeled their inner Carol Burnett and Buster Keaton (with a touch of Dick Van Dyke) just a few years ago to this show within a show that keeps audiences on both sides of the Atlantic laughing non-stop. Mangled lines, a set with a predilection for self-destruction, and dozens of missed cues and bungled entrances all contribute to establishing a surreal atmosphere of a not quite ready for prime-time production.

Through what must have been a mix-up, the Cornley University Drama Society is producing its most ambitious undertaking yet, Susie H. K. Brideswell’s “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” a whodunit in Agatha Christie’s tradition (although Christie fans need not worry). Indeed, as the audience is settling in, the show has already started as cast members are attempting to apply finishing touches to the set.

The society’s director, Chris Bean (Henry Shields) welcomes the audience, moving from the apprehensive to the excited, especially when recounting the past productions by the company that had to be renamed due to budget limitations: “Two Sisters,” “The Lion and the Wardrobe,” and (best of all) “Cat.”

Click here to continue to Page 2“Just Another Fine Mess”

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