Monday, September 25, 2023

The Play That Goes Wrong - Legacy Theatre

The star of The Play That Goes Wrong needs to be the set of a creaky old mansion where murder is afoot.  It is essential that, by the show’s end, the set literally implodes. Fortunately, for the Legacy Theatre’s production of this silly, yet satisfying comedy, Jamie Burnett’s Scenic Designer fractures and collapses with precision.  While not party to the structure’s demise, his Lighting Design and Adam Jackson’s Sound Engineering add to the gaiety of the show.


The production, running through October 1, has its strengths, but suffers from consistent pacing issues.  The play requires both a steady, quick-paced tempo and deftly handled pauses to succeed, which Director Keely Basiden Knudsen does not always deliver.  The outcome can, at times, deflate the show’s momentum and hijinks. 


The plot centers on opening night for the Cornly University Drama Society’s production of The Murder at Haversham Manor.  From the onset, the members of the school’s decidedly amateur cast is undermined in their efforts to entertain by uncooperative scenery, misplaced props, and a corpse that won’t stay dead.  As the play progresses all manner of mayhem erupts.  Just as you think the turmoil couldn’t get worse it does, again and again.


The playwrights Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sawyer, and Henry Shields must have had a grand time coming up with the situations and anarchy portrayed on stage.  They have written a stage comedy in the tradition of such other British shows like Noises Off and One Man, Two Guvnors.  This show is full of vaudevillian antics, slapstick and a great deal of physical humor.


The engaging cast successfully portrays a troupe of bumbling, provincial actors and actresses.  I thought Chris Lemieux, as the victim’s best friend Robert; and Mary Mannix as his now ex-fiancee Florence, were the two standouts among the admirable troupe.  Their portrayals were spot-on and their timing impeccable.  Isaac Kueber, who played Cecil, the brother of the deceased, was a crowd favorite.  However, I thought he could have done more with his character, who is self-important and smug within his role.  There needed to be even broader gestures and more generous facial expressions to truly capture his cheeky character.  I could have also done without the occasional crotch grabs.


Even with the flaws in the production - the fight scenes, choreographed by Emmett Cassidy, could have been a trifle more convincing - Ms. Knudsen is able to weave into the show the recalcitrant set, flinging bodies and even an invisible dog.   It can’t be easy guiding the actors and actresses to be…awful.


The Play That Goes Wrong, playing at the Legacy Theatre through October 1.  The remainder of the performances are sold out, but to inquire about possible availability, click here.

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