This Season, an international phenomenon hits FST’s Mainstage: The Play That Goes Wrong. Called “The funniest play Broadway has ever seen!” by the Huffington Post and “A gut-busting hit!” by The New York Times, this contemporary comedy has all the double-takes, physical stunts, and zany antics you could ever wish for.
“I hadn’t seen anything like this in decades, so we were delighted to get the rights to this play,” said Richard Hopkins, FST’s Producing Artistic Director, who saw The Play That Goes Wrong in London’s West End. “It’s hysterically funny, heartwarming, and just an absolute joy to watch.”
While the premise of the play sounds rather unexciting—the West Palmetto Drama Society, an amateur theatre group, is putting on a 1920s murder mystery play—what unfolds before our eyes is anything but boring. As soon as the first scene of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” starts, anything and everything that could go wrong does go wrong… much to the audience’s enjoyment.
Lines and cues are missed. Doors get stuck and props go missing. One of the leads is knocked unconscious, while a corpse can’t stay still.
“We have a marvelous cast who are strong stage comedians,” said Bruce Jordan, director of The Play That Goes Wrong, who also directed FST’s production of Shear Madness and Steve Martin’s The Underpants. “We’re going to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse until we are confident in every moment of this play. That is when the comedy will really work.”
Performed in over 30 countries for more than two million people, The Play That Goes Wrong is an unstoppable comic sensation.
“This play is so popular across languages and cultures because we can all relate to things not going the way they’re supposed to,” said John Long, who makes his FST debut as Robert, an amateur actor who wants to be the next Richard Burton. “Whether it’s a presentation for our jobs, a realtor showing a new house to a prospective buyer, or the door won’t open…that’s life. It’s usually mortifying when it happens to you, but when it happens to someone else, it’s funny.”
Even with its pratfalls and spit-takes, The Play That Goes Wrong is full of heart and sincerity.
“Honesty and commitment lie at the heart of this play,” said Scott Cote, who also makes his FST debut as Dennis, a slightly oblivious performer. “These actors are doing their best to perform this play while everything is going awry. They don’t stop the show to fix things. They have this strong commitment to get to the end.”
Two more artists will make their FST debuts with The Play That Goes Wrong— Jacqueline Jarrold, who plays Sandra, the leading lady of “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” and Emily Berman, who plays the show’s stage manager, Annie.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned with my experience in comedies, it’s that ensemble pieces like The Play That Goes Wrong require you to be on your toes all the time,” said Timothy C. Goodwin, who returns to FST to play Jonathan, a fun-loving actor who sees himself as a James Bond-type. “Not only are you trying to land your own punchlines, but you have to set up your castmates for their own.”
With the insane world we live in, this “Masterpiece of malfunction” (The Times) might just be what the doctor ordered.
“Life is full of failure,” added Goodwin. “But being able to laugh at the absolute, unyielding wreck that is the human experience really helps you realize we’re all in this together.”