If you like zany comedies with a touch of mystery, you will thoroughly enjoy “The Play That Goes Wrong” written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields and directed by Alex Campbell. It is as if Agatha Christie wrote a play for the Marx Brothers and pokes a lot of fun at amateur theatre groups and stuffy melodramas. It opened in London in 2012 and on Broadway in 2017.
This is classic play-within-a play format. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is producing a 1920s-style murder mystery. Even before the show starts, the real actors, portraying the characters of the thespians in the Drama Society, interact with the audience. Both the stage manager and set crew are part of the antics and hilarity is rampant. Sometimes it is hard to figure out who is part of the play and who is an innocent member of the audience.
…a wonderful madcap production. For those who enjoy a good laugh, catch this finely honed farce before it’s gone.
The Stage Manager, Annie, is wonderfully played by Cassidee Grunwald who moves deftly from the beleaguered crew member to a “wannabe actor.” Ajaika McLemore is Trevor the “cool” stagehand who also finds they are part of the action. Garret Couch is Max, playing Cecil Haversham. Couch finds the right zone for this character who thinks hamming it up is a proper theatrical technique. It is difficult to play a bad actor, but Couch manages to pull it off. As Sandra, who plays Haversham’s love interest, Florence Colleymore and the fiancé of the first corpse, is Aparna Sri. Sri goes from elegance to brawling effortlessly. Nicolai Skwarczek plays Robert and also Thomas Colleymore, the brother of Florence. Again, the fictious drama society is filled with actors who are a bit over the top. Skwarczek makes the most of his long mane of hair to add to the fun. Jeff Dunne seems to love the role as the put upon corpse, Charles Haversham, but also has a grand time playing with the audience as the fictional actor Jonathan. John Mathews as Chris, the alternate persona of Inspector Carter, captures the posture of a British lawman who hardly notices the craziness around him. Jessie Duggan deftly plays Arthur the Gardener. Anne Hull as Dennis who plays the butler, (Could you have a British mystery without one?) is so understated that her character is simply riotous.
The set in this production is really another character in the show. Without spoiling things, very early on we see the set has some serious problems. Nicole Luddy is the wonderful designer who makes this play really work and the set often upstages the performers.
Campbell’s direction is remarkable. He never misses a chance to get in a laugh and also had to be a expert choreographer as well. He is ably assisted by Jenna Campbell, Student Director. Emily Quinn and Suzi Reams created costumes are perfectly suited for the characters.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” is a wonderful madcap production. For those who enjoy a good laugh, catch this finely honed farce before it’s gone.
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” runs through October 7, 2023 at Laurel Mill Playhouse, 508 Main Street, Laurel, MD. For more information and tickets, go online. Laurel Mill Playhouse has no Covid restrictions but encourages the wearing of masks.