The Play That Goes Wrong. Written by Henry Lewis, directed by Mark Ball. Lyceum Theatre, New York. May 2017.
You don’t have to travel across the pond to see this superb presentation of classic British humor. The Play That Goes Wrong has transferred to Broadway and it brought non-stop laughter with it. This dazzling production from the London-based Mischief Theatre, is as funny as any play I have ever seen.
This show at the Lyceum Theater is a play within a play. The actors portray an amateur theater troupe attempting to stage a murder mystery. Due to their ineptitude and poor fortune (really due to the brilliance of the cast and crew), everything goes horribly awry from start to finish. The Play That Goes Wrong pulls it all off hilariously. If you find any joy in slapstick, farce, or schadenfreude (and want a higher form of comedy than clown hijinks), you’ll spend two hours laughing.
But The Play That Goes Wrong isn’t only funny, it is a masterful demonstration of craft. The writing and direction were in the same vein, tying a perfect and complex knot and knowing exactly how to untie everything. The eight actors are equal in ability, which means not one of them may stand out enough to win an award, but they comprise a winning ensemble. Rob Falconer plays a distracted sound technician, Nancy Zamit is an inept stage manager, Dave Hearn plays an actor who gets a kick out of the mishaps, and Henry Lewis pulls off magnificent physical stunts.
A highlight of the show is the scenic design (designed by Nigel Hook) and the crew. It is perfectly constructed to fall apart flawlessly while being able to be re-assembled quickly enough on a two-show day.
I have never laughed more or harder than when seeing The Play That Goes Wrong. There were moments in which I couldn’t find a moment to get a good breath in because I was too busy laughing. You won’t go more than a minute without finding something funny and there are almost no jokes that miss. As the old bromide says, Comedy is Hard. The Tony Awards value dramas more, and musicals rightfully get preferential treatment. But this sensational British comedy is one that should not be missed.