We all know that it is impossible to look away from a train wreck. The Play That Goes Wrong is that train wreck, only no one gets hurt (not seriously) and it’s funny. Part of the Broadway in Norfolk series. This “riotous” play about a play will be at Chrysler Hall from March 3rd–8th.
The title says it all. This one is not a musical. The Cornley University Drama Society, very British, are attempting to stage a classic “whodunit” set it the 1920’s. Before the actors even take the stage, things start going wrong. The dog runs off, the set starts falling apart, the cast is not quite ready, but “on with the show”. It just gets worse and funnier from there. Everything that can go wrong, does and then some.
The Play That Goes Wrong was written by three British gentlemen from the Mischief Theatre Company of London. It was written as a tribute to the classics – Monty Python, Mr. Bean, and the great Buster Keaton. The Play is full of slapstick humor. One critic calls it “fall down funny.” Not only do the actors fall down, the set itself falls apart. There are hilarious visual effects throughout show. Producer Kevin McCallum calls the set “the antagonist, it’s man against the elements” in this play and the element is the stage. It won a Tony for best scenic design, probably because the stage literally falls apart.
The Play That Goes Wrong played 745 times on Broadway, then moved Off-Broadway in 2019 and is still going strong. The New York Post says it’s “Broadway’s funniest and longest running play.” Overseas, on London’s “Broadway” -- the West End, it's in its fifth year.
J.J. Abrams happened to catch the play while he was in Britain filming one of the Star Wars movies. He loved it and was instrumental in bringing it to Broadway in 2017 as a co-producer. Abrams has said of the piece, “It’s too easy to find reasons to be depressed and terrified and unsure and disheartened in this moment. And finding something that is such a pure, unadulterated, hysterically funny and bighearted piece of entertainment is no small thing. I think one of the reasons that people are laughing as hard as they are at this show is not just that it is so funny, but that people are so desperate to have a good time. It’s not just about being distracted by the world, it’s about remembering that one of the great reasons we are alive is to come together and to laugh. And The Play That Goes Wrong does that.”