Safe But Not Sorry*: “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Photo by Mark. S. Howard.

Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston 
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
Directed by Fred Sullivan, Jr.
Stunt Coordinator/Fight Captain: Michael Liebhauser
Scenic Design by Peter Colao
Run Crew: Hazel Peters, Talene Pogherian
Featuring Kelby T. Akin, Alexa Cadete, Nora Eschenheimer, Dan Garcia,
Mitch Kiliulis, Michael Liebhauser, Marc Alexander Pierre, and Dan Whelton. Understudies: Margaret Clark, Patrick French, and Matt C. Ryan.

November 11 – December 18, 2022
Lyric Stage Co.
140 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

Approximately two hours, including one intermission.
This production uses strobe lighting and fog effects. There is one live simulated gunshot in Act 2.

Review by Kitty Drexel

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” — G. K. Chesterton

BOSTON, Mass — Chesterton was a Christian philosopher who argued, with this statement, that most things are done by novices who do those things imperfectly. This Chesterton saying goes along with the Voltaire-attributed aphorism, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” 

Neither Chesterton nor Voltaire was responsible for a cast of accident-prone actors or an elaborate set determined by fate to destroy itself on opening night. Not even Voltaire, the paragon of eighteenth-century French amateur and society theatre, could have imagined The Play That Goes Wrong. 

Call Actors Equity and IATSE, we’ve got some environments to regulate. This ain’t your grand pappy’s university drama club floorshow. 

Patty cake? Photo by Mark. S. Howard.

In The Play That Goes Wrong, the Cornley University Society’s opening night performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor. It is a play within a play. 

The Lyric’s press release says it perfectly: “An unconscious leading lady, a corpse who can’t play dead, a ruffled detective, and a word-mangling butler (among others) must battle against technical gaffes, forgotten lines, and sabotaging scenery in a quest to arrive all in one piece at the final curtain call.” 

In addition to the above, there are heaps of visual gags, hammy scene chewings, the invisible made visible, enough audible and visual puns to choke an anemic horse, lifts, and several very safe falls. 

TPTGW pays homage to the wonder, glee, and enchantingly chintzy foibles of hobbyist and community theatre. Community theatres are talent incubators for regional and LORT stages. Talent enriched in community theatres wends its way to bigger, better-funded projects closer to the city. Those fancy city theatres might have bigger budgets, but do they have more enthusiasm? Sometimes. 

No doubt the triumphant cast of TPTGW has stories of its own about onstage and backstage mishaps (don’t we all). The ensemble performs steadily through a constant barrage of gags and mishaps with aplomb. They are safe in the hands of the stunt coordinator, Michael Liebhauser. Liebhauser and the cast accomplish some truly impressive prop work. 

This play is hilarious. It’s the perfect levity before a stressful Thanksgiving holiday. It channels the best parts of Agatha Christie’s whodunnit, “The Mousetrap,” and the silliness of “Sheer Madness.” The Lyric’s cast gives it a special gloss. Maybe it’s remnants from Southie’s 2015 Medieval Manor closure (RIP).  

Photo by Mark. S. Howard.

The program has an interview with scenic designer Peter Colao. It gives insight into the hard work that went into creating the quirky yet dependable set used in The Play That Goes Wrong. The sneak peek into Colao’s work is fascinating and so is the work that goes into creating a stage with a personality of its own. 

The Lyric Stage is collecting personal hygiene items on behalf of the residents in the affordable housing units of 140 Clarendon St. Please donate when you attend your performance. My date and I brought tampons and menstrual pads – which can be expensive and difficult to acquire on a tight budget but are necessary for the good health of menstruating individuals. Items can be dropped off in the Lyric’s Kumba Library. 

*Chris Evans rudely didn’t attend. He should feel sorry for getting everyone’s’ hopes up.

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