Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The Play That Goes WrongNational Tour
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Between Riverside and Crazy, The Laramie Project and Raisin


Scott Cote, Yaegel T. Welch, Peyton Crim,
Jamie Ann Romero, and New Noyes

Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Broadway's current longest running play, The Play That Goes Wrong by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, is out on a national tour, and has arrived at Tampa's Straz Center for the Performing Arts. The Play That Goes Wrong is a valentine to amateur theater the world over, and to those that suffer to make it happen. It is slapstick for sure, and requires an ensemble of brilliant physical comedians, which this touring production has. Without performances on this level, it would likely fall very flat, champagne left with the bottle uncorked.

The plot revolves around a British theater company attempting a play larger than what they have attempted in the past, Murder at Haversham Manor. One can imagine that rehearsals were likely chaotic for all the reasons they often are, absences, untested acting abilities, limited technical prowess, but here we are on opening night. If it is true, as often said in the theater, bad dress, great opening night, then the dress rehearsal must have gone quite well. Mayhem at every turn is the order of the day and the mostly full house at the Straz Center got a belly full of laughs.

The program is a complex matter: first a program for the play being performed for us, complete with cast list, followed by a cast list with bios of the actors playing the actors who are playing characters or manning various aspects for our pseudo play.

Chris Bean is the president of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, director of Murder at Haversham Manor and plays Inspector Carter. Evan Alexander Smith plays Chris, or more succinctly, postures in the role, letting his trenchcoat swirl around around him at every major plot point. Yaegel T. Welch plays Jonathan Harris, who plays Charles Haversham, the least dead body ever seen on a stage. In the opening few minutes, his physical comedy while playing dead is priceless. Peyton Crim uses a mellifluous voice and stolid British manner in playing Robert Grove, playing Thomas Colleymoore, our heroine's brother and friend to most of the others. Scott Cote plays Dennis Tyde, who plays maître de maison/family retainer Perkins. His performance as Perkins shows less excess than almost any of the others in the pseudo cast, well cast as a stiff neck.

Jamie Ann Romero plays Sandra Wilkinson, playing Florence Colleymoore, super perky and engaged to be married to our dead man, but carrying on with several others. Ned Noyes, playing Max, who plays Cecil Haversham and Arthur the Gardner, is so good, I only now realized the double casting. As Cecil, I thought him to be the most nimbly comic of the entire cast, but I have to imagine that other audience members have their own favorites. Angel Grovey plays Annie Twilloil, the stage manager who gets pressed into service and decides she likes the spotlight. Brandon J. Ellis rounds out our cast as lighting and sound operator Trevor Watson. He also gets pressed into service when things are at their most chaotic, but his character doesn't quite rise to the occasion, in the funniest possible way.

Here we have 2-1/2 hours of beautifully choreographed comic antics, performed by a cast without a weak link. Mark Bell is credited with the original Broadway direction, and the tour is directed by Matt DiCarlo. Bravo to both. Scenic design is integral to this production because the set has to malfunction often and perfectly. It is by Nigel Hook. Costume design is by Roberto Surace, lighting design by Ric Mountjoy.

The Play That Goes Wrong is a throwback to another era of theatergoing. It begins silly, stays that way, and about mid second act it goes completely berserk, falling in around itself, much to the audience's amusement. It is for sure an entertaining night of theater, but the tickets don't come cheap. I hope there is still an audience ready to plop down $100+ for the best seats, because as long as that doesn't represent too major an investment, I am certain a good time will be had.

The Play That Goes Wrong, through October 21, 2018, at Carol Morsani Hall, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. W.C. MacInnes Place, Tampa FL. For tickets and information, visit www.strazcenter.org. For more information on the tour, visit broadwaygoeswrong.com/tour.php.

Cast (in order of appearance):
Trevor: Brandon J. Ellis
Chris: Evan Alexander Smith
Jonathan: Yaegel T.Welch
Robert: Peyton Crim
Dennis: Scott Cote
Sandra: Jamie Ann Romero
Max: Ned Noyes
Annie: Angela Grovey


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