Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is well played jocosity
Normally, when one goes to the theater, one expects an impeccable performance where everyone hits their marks, props are properly placed and used, lines are crisp and one leaves the theater feeling fulfilled and entertained. It is, after all, theater by god.
Such is NOT the case with Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s newest production, but do not be alarmed. The flubbed lines, overacting, prop misplacement and total annihilation of the set is carefully planned and executed. It is, after all, Henry Lewis’, Jonathan Sayer’s and Henry Shields’ “The Play that Goes Wrong”.
Us, the audience has arrived to see a performance of the Cornley University Drama Society’s newest production. Even before the play begins, things are going awry. The stage hands are desperately trying to patch up a falling apart set that includes sticking doors, an errant elevator and a broken mantle piece to name a few.
An “audience member” is recruited to help hold the mantle piece in placed as a young lady attempts to fix it to the wall from the opposite side with little luck. The unfortunate draftee is mistaken as the young lady’s paramour and chased around the set by the jealous fiancé. They are also trying to find an escaped dog actor that is crucial to the show.
Cornley is a low budget community theater company coming off the success of their abridged versions of “Two Sisters”, “The Lion and the Wardrobe”, “James, Where’s Your Peach?” and “Cat.” A substantial bequest has materialized to fund their newest production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” which they are determined to portray against all odds come hell or high water. After all the show has the exact number of parts as they have members. This is a mad cap comedy in the vein of Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” or a poor man’s version of any Ken Ludwig work.
Charles Haversham has been murdered during his bachelor party and there is no lack of suspects. His brother Cecil has been bonking Charles's fiancé, Florence. Perkins, the family retainer is the sole heir to the family fortune if Charles dies. Charles is involved with the Police Inspector in a shady deal with the police retirement fund. Florence’s brother is not happy with his sister marrying Charles...and so on.
During the play within a play, everything that could possibly go wrong goes horribly and ridiculously wrong to the max. The “fixed” doors still stick, props launch themselves from the walls, the much needed mantle piece has been removed with hands poking through the wall as a substitute. Perkins, the butler seems to have temporary tatoos of his more difficult lines on various parts of his body for quick reference. Actors are knocked out cold and replaced with stage crew, one of which refuses to yield when the actor returns and a battle royal ensues. Props are misplaced or substituted (the manor keys and a vase serve as a note pad and pen), lines are flubbed, cues are missed, paint thinner has replaced the prop whiskey, the “corpse’” fingers are trod upon bringing him momentarily back to life over and over again, the entire platform where the second floor is housed collapses and at one point an entire sequence of dialogue is repeated in a loop until they finally hit the right verbal clue and carry on. As the real murderer is revealed, the entire set disintegrates in a shower of sawdust as all the walls collapse.
In order to give proper credit to the various actors one must read past the program which has seemed to have gone astray as well with the different names of characters being posted than those appearing in the play. It took a bit of detective work on Wikipedia so here goes.
Christopher Bizub plays Chris Bean who is playing Inspector Carter and also serves as the show's director, set designer, costume designer, prop maker, box office manager, press and PR person, dramaturg, voice coach, dialect coach, fight choreographer AND filled in for the role of Mr. Fitzroy during rehearsals. Brandon Paul Ferris plays Jonathan Harris who plays Charles Haversham (AKA “The Victim”). Greg A. Smith plays Robert Grove who plays Thomas Colleymoore (Florence’s brother). Kevin Derrick plays Dennis Tyde who plays Perkins (The Butler). Laura Telepak plays Sandra Wilkinson who plays Florence Colleymoore (fiance of the “murder victim”). Miron Gusso plays Max Bennett who plays Cecil Haversham (Charles brother and Florence’s secret lover) as well as Arthur the Gardener. Julian Kruyne plays Trevor Watson who is the lighting and sound operator. Bekah Neubecker plays Annie Twilloil the stage manager/drafted actor. Got it? Good.
The show is misdirected (pun intended) by Michael J. Rogan. To protect the innocent (or guilty as the case may be), the set designer is unlisted. Jacklyn Kruyne is the props mistakeress. Valerie Hughes is the Lighting Operator and Mayim Hamblen handles the costuming.
Pratfalls, self destructing sets, crazy prop substitutions, flubbed lines, knocked out actors, a repeatedly revived corpse, stuck doors and stuff flying off the walls...if you are in the mood for a madcap comedy Chagrin Valley Little Theatre is the place to be but be warned, this show is selling out fast so order your tickets NOW!
The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre production of “The Play That Goes Wrong” will be on stage at 40 River Street, Chagrin Falls, Ohio through June 18th, 2023. For more information and to order tickets go to https://cvlt.org/ or call (440) 247-8955.