I wasn’t a theater kid, but there was one production that my high school put on that needed people for backstage work, so I volunteered.
I didn’t do much, just hemmed a few dresses and painted a couple of wooden boards, but I got to see how much work went into a play or musical weeks before it would even hit the stage. Someone grumbled, “I need more glue!” as they ran across the stage to catch a falling curtain before it smacked an unsuspecting girl in the head. There was frantic yelling, running, and even crying when a friend of mine couldn’t figure out how to start working on the table she was asked to build. It was chaos, but fun chaos, and happened early so that by opening night everything went perfectly.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” is not like this at all, but as the title will tell you, that’s intentional. As part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center Broadway Series Presents, the “hilarious! Nonstop pandemonium” is playing at the Winspear Opera House through June 16.
Welcome to opening night of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” where things are quickly going from bad to utterly disastrous – an unconscious leading lady, a corpse that can’t play dead, and actors who trip over everything (including their lines).
Think of the actors (err, characters) who welcome you to the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s newest production, “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” as having decided to put on a play the same day it opens, and you can imagine the antics that ensue. Costumes don’t fit correctly, actors don’t know their lines, and the hastily-built set needs some serious elbow grease. This play-within-a-play is so ridiculous that by the end of it the cast is just happy to be alive.
This, of course, makes you think about how special and talented the real actors must be, the ones who have to inhabit two characters’ mindsets and have impeccable timing so as not to miss a cue and get actually hurt. Although, the genius of the play may lie in its ability to make you think it’s all intentional. If someone’s finger were to really bleed in this play, I wouldn’t know the difference.
You would think it’d get old, the fumbling theatrics, but as the two-act play goes on the laughter gets louder; the audience won’t stop howling. Though my favorite part of the whole evening was the beginning before the play “officially” starts (you’ll have to get there early to know what I’m talking about), the whole thing left me giddy, chatting about the details with my brother on our way home.
The program you’re given as you enter the Winspear completes the illusion with a fake description of the play, along with a “Letter from the President” and “Artist Bios” that are fun to peruse, but flip a few pages back and you’ll discover the true talent that makes the production such a success.
With national tours under their belt, the actors (including Scott Cote, Peyton Crim, and Brandon J. Ellis) use their exaggerated British accents to ensure every audience member chuckles, squeals, or guffaws at least once. And let’s not forget the fact that the play would not be what it is without the talented Tour Director Matt DiCarlo; the originals who dreamed up the production, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields; and Set Designer Nigel Hook and Costume Designer Roberto Surace.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” has enjoyed rave reviews and won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2015. When it was on Broadway, the Huffington Post called it “the funniest play Broadway has ever seen,” and the words still ring true in Dallas. It’s a breath of fresh air in the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Broadway Series.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, including an intermission.
Catch “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Winspear Opera House until June 16, before the Series moves on to “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” next week.