HARTFORD – The drive from Boston Tuesday night went all wrong, getting this reviewer to The Bushnell 15 minutes late to a seat in the middle of the row. It was only fitting when going to a show called “The Play That Goes Wrong.”
But surprisingly everything that goes wrong in this production makes it go so right. I started laughing instantly and never really stopped the whole play. It’s been awhile since a theater production has done that for me.
The play, directed by Matt DiCarlo and created by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, is a disaster in every aspect. But that’s the comedy of it. From missed lines and overly embellished acting to Magoo-like set-falling catastrophes and prop misplacements, the show’s imperfection is perfectly uproarious. It’s raining guffaws.
Stunts and physical comedy abound, the cast really brought down the house with the slapstick humor in this murder mystery play within a play.
You had Yaegel T. Welch playing the dead body and trying to inconspicuously crawl out of the room when the stretcher rips before his fellow actors can carry him off the stage in it. The terror on his face with the awareness of the audience is priceless as he slinks out of the room, casually tilts his head to the side, and crosses his arms like a mummy before closing the door. His signature move.
Then there were the two actors (Peyton Crim as Thomas Colleymoore/Robert and Ned Noyes standing in as Inspector Carter/Chris) holding on for dear life and maneuvering the set as a platform lurches closer and closer to the ground while they’re on it.
Not to mention the stage hand (Angela Grovey) summoning her inner diva and duking it out with the leading lady (Jamie Ann Romero) for the main female role, each getting knocked out and trying to knock each other out. Plus the sound guy (Brandon J. Ellis) in the play world who doesn’t really want to be there keeps playing Duran Duran to annoy the actors before he gets called out to read the female lines. And you can’t forget the god-awful, spit-spray invoking prop liquor or the bellowing one-liners from Crim basking in the irony of the mishaps.
Sid Solomon, understudy, played Max/Cecil Haversham flamboyantly fabulous as he cringes during the advances of the female character with whom he is having an affair.
Scott Cote as Perkins/Dennis keeps one scene looping as he forgets his line, driving his fellow actors into a fury.
The interactivity and reactiveness of the actors to the audience brought a spontaneous rawness and familiarity to the show that only live performances allow. In response to shouts from the audience about where a missing prop was hidden, Noyes, the inspector and director of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” in our play within a play, heckled the audience, shouting, “This isn’t the movies, I can hear you!” Then throwing a little shade, “They wouldn’t do this at the Hartford Stage!” The local references made the play even more relatable. Noyes, who usually plays Max/Cecil Haversham, had the look, voice, and mannerisms (or should I say “manorisms”) of John Cleese.
And a Monty Python vibe this play certainly had with elements of theater of the absurd.
The actors even stayed in character at intermission, running through the house as Noyes yelled at the others something like “I can’t believe you thought this was a suitable disguise to get a snack!”
This is the one play that the more it goes wrong, the better it gets. Such mistakes could not have been orchestrated more perfectly. It’s a hoot!
“The Play That Goes Wrong” opens The Bushnell’s fall season in Hartford, running through Sunday, Sept. 30. More information on the production and buying tickets is available at www.bushnell.org.