The Play That Goes Wrong. I’ll Say!

The Play That Goes Wrong features actors (from left), Jack Grigoli, Mariko Iwasa, Weston Pytel, Liv Cunha, Shaun O'Keefe, Elizabeth Pietrangelo and Scott Renzoni. (Photo by Kait Rankins)
The Play That Goes Wrong features actors (from left), Jack Grigoli, Mariko Iwasa, Weston Pytel, Liv Cunha, Shaun O’Keefe, Elizabeth Pietrangelo and Scott Renzoni. (Photo by Kait Rankins)

In this Wild Play, The Stagehands and  Props Play Roles As Important as the Actors!

We begin the play before the 7:30 start, at around 7:20, stagehands work on the stage moving props around.  We notice that as soon as one worker with a headset places something or sets the time on the grandfather clock, the next one undoes it, then they repeatedly try to fix a broken mantlepiece.  And someone is looking for a dog named Winston, using a dog toy to squeak him into revealing his wherabouts. Wordlessly, the workers go back and forth and by 7:30, the blackout, er, cue the lights!  It’s showtime.

This rendition of the hit The Play that Goes Wrong that’s been running in London since 2012,  is hysterical. It was an excellent choice to fill the Majestic’s top notch 2024 line up, with lots of funny characters and a thousand classic moments.

Our announcer/director/empresario summons us to his plans for the evening…a murder mystery play.

It’s madcap and it starts to go delightfully wrong from the getgo.  Up in the balcony facing the audience, is a spotlight on that funny stagehand who kept moving the stuff.  She’s eating chips loudly into the mic…oops, she counted the chimes wrong…”DONG” “DONG” stop pressing the buttons!

Jack Grigoli, Weston Pytel, Josh Karam, Scott Renzoni, Shaun O'Keefe, and Elizabeth Pietrangelo.
Jack Grigoli, Weston Pytel, Josh Karam, Scott Renzoni, Shaun O’Keefe, and Elizabeth Pietrangelo.

Funny asides abound….and one that was repeatedly funny was Max (Scott Renzoni) who found himself quite enamored by swinging his hands like a conductor, and does it again and again to the audience’s delight.  At one point Trevor, the stagehand up top in the booth, implores Chris (Jack Grigoli) to “just die already, won’t you!”

There is of course, like in any good farce, a play within a play, and this one is a murder mystery that some critics have called a mash up of Monty Python and Sherlock Holmes, involves guests at a country estate called Haversham Manor.  People keep turning up dead, well, sort of, and at each appropriate juncture the guests are asked to have a drink, which they promptly spit out like it’s rubbing alcohol…which it is.  The bit never gets old as the actors at the end of the first act go into a Groundhog Day-like spiral, repeating the dialogue louder and louder and spitting the shots out harder and messier.  Finally it’s time for the first act to end….black out. Oops, no, red lights. The pace never lets up.

They get the Python vibe perfectly when Robert tries to enter the manor. He can’t find the keys. We wait. He turns up by walking around the set. The keys would be lost again and again, and the Inspector (Scott Renzoni) uses the upside down vase to take down notes. Things fall of the wall and that high stage well, it seems just about to go.

And it’s important to note that a lot of the funniest parts of this show weren’t the actors at all. It was the set, that featured paintings that flop down, mantelpieces that detach (replaced by human hands!) doorbells that pop off, entire door frames that crash down and even the second floor itself, gets cantilevered in a dangerous angle with big Robert (Shaun O’Keefe) perilously close to sliding off the roof!  Set designer Peter Coloa and builders Wooden Kiwi Productions really did yeoman work here, creating the effects without losing any of the actors. I’m still trying to figure out how they kept the stuff sticking and then it all fell off the wall.

The play is really a series of exaggerated acting and whodunit tropes, with delightfully broad English nobleman’s accents, and then the character Sandra who begins the play as the wife of the murdered Jonathan (Weston Pytel) and somehow in the second act emerges wearing just polka-dotted underwear down below instead of her formal red dress.   Then begins a battle between the actor Sandra and stage technician, Annie (Mariko Iwasa) over who gets to read the lines of of the white notebook. So they both end up trying to steal eachother’s lines.

Mariko Iwasa, Shaun O'Keefe, Jack Grigoli, and Josh Karam.
Mariko Iwasa, Shaun O’Keefe, Jack Grigoli, and Josh Karam.

This play was a challenge to produce, since each night the actors must summon up the craziest moments and sustain the level of hilarity throughout.  Equity actors Scott Renzoni, Jack Grigoli and Mariko Iwasa proved worthy of the challenge, as did everyone else in the cast and crew.

‘The Play That Goes Wrong,’ a hilarious comedy by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer, will be presented at the Majestic Theater, West Springfield, April 18-June 2. Tickets can be ordered by calling
(413) 747-7797. 

Read more of Max Hartshorne’s theater reviews from all over the Pioneer Valley.