“The Play That Goes Wrong” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – March 21, 2019


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

“The Play That Goes Wrong” is a typical British farcical comedy which American audiences may find mildly amusing but it rarely creates the wild guffaws like it did for British theatergoers.  But American comedies often fall flat in London so it says something about what audiences on both sides of the Atlantic like.

While on a London holiday, I caught up with the long-running British comedy.  “The Play That Goes Wrong” is still going strong after four years but unlike the mostly British audience, I didn’t find the play that funny.  There are amusing moments but they are few and far between and the laughs it did solicit were never more than simple chuckles.

British farces use limited funny bits and amusing dialogue repeated over and over until they lose whatever comic punch they had initially.  British farce also is littered with predictable humor.  Jokes and situations become anticipated.

Another problem with the American “The Play That Goes Wrong” is that mandated British accents every character must possess falter throughout the performance.  One minute a performer executes a spot-on British twang but the next minute the same performer sounds American.

Even the direction, originally executed on Broadway by Mark Bell and recreated for the tour by Matt DiCarlo seems more attuned to American comedy than British humor.  The tiny set, another London recreation, takes up less than a third of the huge ASU Gammage stage.  Since the set actually plays a significant role as the play-within-a-play explores murders and disappearances a larger set that occupies more stage space would improve it.  Since audiences must hear every word, an impeccable sound system did not allow any missed dialogue.

The entire cast was plagued by the accent problem but most handled the strained and repeated malarkey well.  Evan Alexander Smith plays detective Chris with flair as he handles a myriad of pratfalls with distinction.  Yaegel T. Welch handles a dude who is killed with conviction.  Scott Cote plays longtime household servant Dennis with awe-sucks amazement.  Jamie Ann Romero tackles suspected killer Sandra with a stunning second act costume change.  Peyton Crim essays heavy-set Robert with dynamic gymnastic movements.  Angela Grovey does some revealing gyrations as she becomes a suddenly missing character.  Brandon J. Ellis shifts in and out of the action as the show’s stage manager, Trevor, while Ned Noyes laughed at his machinations in an odd double role.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” disappointed this American theatergoer in London and the road company didn’t improve things at ASU Gammage where the show continues through March 24.  For tickets, contact Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Grade: C