The Play That Goes Wrong: An Hilarious Send-up at the Ahmanson Theatre

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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Satires of the situation and plot of this dusty theatrical mystery are as old as the hills, but this spoof of a 1920s drawing room drama out-spoofs them all.  Noises-off doesn’t begin to encompass the chutzpah of the fictional Cornley University Drama Society production of (organ music here) “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” hereinafter known as The Play That Goes Wrong. The equally fictional program notes by Chris Bean (Evan Alexander Smith), the director, voice coach, dialect coach, fight choreographer, casting director, and costume designer for the drama society are worth the price of the ticket.

It is almost impossible to describe the events that unfold in a production of this size when most of the performers are new to the theatre (wink, wink).  But needless to say, laughter begins almost immediately when the curtain rises on Jonathan Haversham’s “dead” body (Yaegel T. Welch) before he has crawled into place, and it just goes wronger and wronger from there.

One finds oneself laughing so consistently that it is impossible to enumerate all the gags cooked up by actual U.K.-based Mischief Theatre Company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields under the nom de plume, Susie H. K. Brideswell.  But the cast’s split second comedy timing in conjunction with a truly demonic set designed by Nigel Hook conspire to keep the show stumbling, er, moving through the predictable plot.

There are several standout comedy bits that I must mention, and you must see.  One is the dialogue loop near the end of act one, when one of the actors cannot remember his line, but feeds the wrong one that sends the cast back over the same ground again and again.  You had to be there.  Another moment is so unrelentingly amateurish that your sides hurt, when two more actors get out of sync and start delivering the lines so much out of order that one answers before the next asks the question.  Again….you must see this.

The pièce de résistance of the evening involves the malfunctioning set that is so genius that it received its own Tony Award for the Broadway production.  The only sour note, however, involves the two women, ingénue Florence Colleymoore (Jamie Ann Romero) and “stage manager” Annie (Angela Grovey) who are forced into a senseless and unfunny battle with each other for supremacy of the stage.  Witness who wrote the play and who directed it (Broadway: Mark Bell, Touring: Matt DiCarlo).  I won’t say more.

The Play that Goes Wrong continues through August 11th, 2019, performing Tuesdays through Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sundays at 1 pm and 6:30 pm at Ahmanson Theater, located in the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles 90012. Tickets (from $30.00 to $135.00) available by calling (213) 972-4400, at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, or in person at Center Theatre Group box office.