There’s just something so right about something designed to go completely “wrong!” I know that sounds crazy, but you never expect a play that has so many mishaps and unfortunate events involved to be so satisfying!! What kind of craziness am I talking about? I’m talking about the Play That Goes Wrong, a Broadway smash-hit production that tests the boundaries of human error. My son and I had the chance to see The Play That Goes Wrong recently at the Dr Phillips Center and we are STILL talking about what we saw!
I was provided tickets for this performance in exchange for my honest review. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
The Play That Goes Wrong
We knew before we went in that we were about to watch a “play within a play.” The show, The Play That Goes Wrong, is all about “opening night” of “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” So, in essence, the audience is watching a murder mystery played out on stage. However, the actors on sage are actually portraying actors in these acting roles. Have I confused you yet?
So – here’s the deal. The real life actors are portraying actors in a theatre troupe performing opening night of their murder mystery. However, we’re not talking Broadway caliber performances. We’re talking about a corpse who can’t play dead, a set that can’t seem to stay together and various roles finding themselves concussed throughout the performance.
It is a true comedy of errors designed to keep the audience laughing hysterically.
Interestingly, before I began to write this review (which is later than I wanted to get it out), I was chatting with a friend who saw the same performance on the same night. I was actually surprised to find that opinions of the play apparently varied widely. While where I was sitting the audience seemed to immensely enjoy the show, where my friend was sitting, the general consensus was that the play wasn’t worth the evening out.
To be honest, I found that simply fascinating.
There’s no question that the show involves a tremendous amount of over-dramatization and embellishment. It also involves a lot of acting that seems below mediocre and of questionable skill.
However, that was a part of its intended brilliance. It takes skill to demonstrate such amateur-appearing antics and to work with a set that was strategically designed to fall apart around you.
So, Let’s Break This Down…
What Did I Enjoy About The Play That Goes Wrong?
You know, it could have been that I was just in desperate need of an evening where I could sit back, relax and enjoy some nonsensical, slapstick comedy. On the other hand, I absolutely fell in love with the exquisite delivery of the perfectly timed lines and mishaps. Everything “didn’t work” exactly the way it was intended. It was a true comedy of intentional errors that had my son and me laughing consistently throughout the production.
Everyone trips on cue. Everything falls on mark. It was brilliantly executed.
Oh, but that set!!!
It’s true – it wasn’t just the acting that impressed us. The entire set design was mesmerizing. Things were falling, dropping, breaking and moving in ways that were accidental and intentional all at the same time. It took skill and talent to time those mishaps and to facilitate each in such a way that an avalanche of other things didn’t happen….truly by accident. The design was brilliant and we enjoyed every “mistake” that took place.
But The Evening’s Largest Impression Was Made By…
I had to ask this of my son. I asked him after the show which character stood out to him the most. Without hesitation, he noted that he was all about “Max” (portraying Cecil Haversham in the murder mystery portion, the brother of the “deceased.”). Adam Petherbridge took on the role of an amateur actor who found himself enjoying the limelight a little too much when it shone on him. Of course, he also this nervous quirk about him that he carried out very well when placed within the grasp of his female counterpart.
To be quite honest, not a single actor disappointed us on that stage. My son and I were rather impressed with each and every portrayal and were taken in by each of their quirky personalities. Aside from Petherbridge, I would say that two others truly deserving of recognition for their roles were those who played the parts of the stagehands-turned-characters. Jason Bowen (Trevor) and Bianca Horn (Annie) were absolutely magnificent and delivered performances that were right on the money!
What didn’t I like about The Play That Goes Wrong
There was really only one part of the show that struck me with a moment of boredom and worry and that was early on in the production. The show begins with the stagehands putting the final touches on the set. They even recruit the help of an “audience member.” Because we had never seen the show before, it was unclear that the production had started, unclear where our attention should be. The lights were up, people were still making their way to their seats. It was just difficult to pay close attention. In the end, though, our eyes were certainly drawn towards what was happening on stage. It just took a little too long to get there. It dragged and had me worried about what was ahead.
Needless to say, that feeling didn’t last very long at all.
Would I recommend seeing the show?
Listen. This kind of humor is not for everyone. As noted above, my friend wasn’t fond of the show and said those around her were falling asleep. However, near me, everyone was belting out belly laughs and ready to “pee their pants.” It’s definitely over-dramatized and embellished, but done so with intention and perfection. Yes, at times, the dialogue and action on stage is “downright stupid.” We still found ourselves captivated by the show.
I do have to say this for it. I found it a fairly clean script in comparison to some of the other plays and musicals we’ve seen of late. It held my attention and that of my teenage son, which is impressive in its own right. It was packed full of both expected and unexpected surprises all the way to the very end.
So, for me, it was the perfect way to spend an evening. It certainly helped to take my mind off the craziness that comes this time of the year and gave me something new to talk about with my son.
What you should know about the production
While the play is fairly clean in that there is no nudity or extreme profanity, there is some mild profanity (damn, hell, a**) and references to relational affairs. One character does dress scantily at certain parts of the show, but nothing is shown beyond cleavage and legs.
There are also a lot of loud noises and moments that will catch you by surprise. While I wouldn’t bring small children because of the potential for them to not understand, I had no issues bringing my 16 year old and would have felt completely comfortable bringing my 13 year old.
The Play That Goes Wrong is an over-dramatic portrayal of strategic chaos, perfectly executed with superb comedic delivery. While it’s run here at the Dr. Phillips Center may be over, the tour continues, reaching cities such as Key West, Tuscon, Reno and Boise. If you are looking for a theater production that allows you to simply enjoy some entertaining stupidity (at its best) on stage, this would be a show I’d recommend you check out further!
For more information regarding locations and dates, click here: US Tour.
A Dr. Phillips Center “Did You Know?” Tip:
It’s always recommended to arrive at the Dr. Phillips Center at least 30 minutes prior to curtain. Because of this, there are actually many times we arrive before we’ve even had the chance to eat. When that happens, it’s a comfort to know that there are food and beverage options in case we feel the need to satisfy our appetites before the show.
- A variety of snacks and drinks are available on Tiers 1 through 4.
- Bar service is available 1.5 hours before shows in the Walt Disney Theater. For shows taking place in the Alexis & John Pugh Theater, the bar is open an hour before shows. The bars also stay open an hour after curtain.
- You can pre-purchase food or drinks for intermission at any bar.
- while it is preferable that you enjoy your food before entering the theater, drinks can be brought in with you, unless otherwise noted.
- The bars at the Dr. Phillips Center accept cash, Apple Pay, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover or traveler’s checks.
- Any guests over age 21 must show a current, valid federal or state ID in order to buy alcohol. Two drinks can be purchased at a time per ID.
For more information on other pre-show dining options, check out this page on their site: https://www.drphillipscenter.org/events/preshow-dining/
Don’t miss any of my other reviews from Dr. Phillips Center productions:
- An Escape to Margaritaville: Worth The Trip?
- Review: Les Misérables Graces the Dr. Phillips Center Stage in Orlando
- Orlando Broadway Series continues with Hello, Dolly!
- Come From Away: The Story The World Needed To Hear (#OrlandoBroadwaySeries)
- Balancing Life like a Fiddler on the Roof ~ #OrlandoBroadwaySeries
- Review: Anastasia, The Musical, on the Dr. Phillips Center Stage
- “Dear Evan Hansen…You Are Not Alone:” A Theatre Review
BE SURE TO FOLLOW FOOTPRINTS IN PIXIE DUST ON:
- Facebook at Footprints in Pixie Dust by T.M. Brown
- Twitter at @footprintsinpd
- Instagram at @footprintsinpd