Gary’s Ratings: 4.5/5
Main Cast: Russel Mernagh (as Max), Brent Bateman (as Robert), Adam Petherbridge (as Dennis), Ryan Vincent Anderson (as Trevor), Chris French (as Jonathan), Chris Lanceley (as Chris), Ashley N. Hildreth (as Annie), Maggie Weston (as Sandra), Damien Brett, Laura D’Andre, Ellie MacPherson, Sid Solomon (as Understudies).
Running Dates: Example Previews from February 11, 2019, Opening October 15, 2021, Closing January 01, 2023
Theater Location: New World Stages – Stage 4, 340 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10019
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes (including one intermission)
Tickets: Prices from $99. Buy tickets here.
The Gary Score
The Play That Goes Wrong got a 4.5 rating from me due to one incredible feat: The show managed to earn my respect toward a genre that I’ve never appreciated much.
I’ve rarely seen a nonsensical comedy filled with physical gags that’s actually fun. Not that such examples don’t exist – they simply happen once in a blue moon. The Play That Goes Wrong manages to pull off its over-the-top jokes with just enough absurdity and cheese to come out hilarious.
What Is The Play That Goes Wrong About?
In The Play That Goes Wrong, a crew of amateur university theater lovers tries to put together a murder-mystery play. The audience sees how the play unfolds as well as what happens behind the stage.
As the name implies, things start to go wrong all around. From the collapsing scenery to characters bumbling through the play (and their relationships), the crew tries to avoid complete disaster and wrap up the production.
How Complex Is the Show?
The Play That Goes Wrong isn’t overly complex at all. The humor is primarily physical, relying on props and scenery as well as the performances. In line with that setting, the dialogue is relatively straightforward. This show aims to please as wide an audience as possible, and wouldn’t risk any gags going over anyone’s head.
Set Design and Style
Despite its talented cast, the main star of The Play That Goes Wrong is the scenery. Set design is masterfully done, with individual pieces constructed to fall apart at the right moment and to great comedic effect.
There are two set styles in this show: one that represents the “real” setting and the other depicting the stage of the play within the play. The later scenery is, without a doubt, more impressive, contributing to everything from the plot to the physical gags.
When I first saw The Play That Goes Wrong, it reminded me of a classic show by Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The similarity isn’t in the quality of writing or the refined wording – Shakespeare certainly does both better. But A Midsummer Night’s Dream shares a similar setting with The Play That Goes Wrong: a play within a play. In both cases, the plays within the shows are hilarious due to everyone involved being inept.
If you want a complete farce more in line with The Play That Goes Wrong but with more edge, you should check out Noises Off. There’s plenty of humor in Noises Off, although this play digs much deeper into the intricacies of characters and the theater in general.
A Review of the Reviews
Reviewers are a bit divided when it comes to The Play That Goes Wrong.
Broadway World emphasizes the various milestones the show has achieved, including the number of performances, audience members, and even times that characters get hit on stage. The Stage calls this show the funniest play currently on Broadway.
The Daily Beast review praised the performances and the overall chaos that overtakes the stage, especially in sections that cover the fictional play. Similarly, Variety applauded the unapologetic lowbrow humor, although their review notes that the fun takes some time to pick up.
According to Broadway.com, The Play That Goes Wrong presents a classic whodunit, but it’s more mysterious how the show got onto Broadway.
The Chicago Sun-Times gave the show the least favorable review, giving it the alternative title “The Play That’s Too Long.” This review points out that the gags can be overdone and repetitive, and the characters aren’t overly developed.
A Little Bit About the Characters
|Annie||The stage manager of the company, Annie goes through a complete transformation throughout the show.|
|Chris||Chris starts the show as the play director. His rigid personality starts to break when he assumes a role within the play.|
|Robert||As a bad actor who’s completely unaware of his surroundings, Robert is a Richard Burton-wannabe who drives plenty of the show’s comedic moments.|
|Dennis||Unlike most others, Dennis isn’t interested in theater. Instead, he joins the crew to gain friends and improve his social standing.|
|Trevor||Trevor is the sound and lighting operator who isn’t very keen on actors and doesn’t share their enthusiasm. During the show, he gets more involved in the play than he would like.|
|Jonathan||In contrast to Trevor, Jonathan is very excited about the play, although for him it’s only a bit of fun.|
|Max||Max is a typical “fish out of water” character. He never had connections with the theater but learns to be more relaxed on stage – often a bit too much.|
The Play That Goes Wrong Chicago
Before setting up production off Broadway, The Play That Goes Wrong had a successful season in Chicago. The Chicago staging helped the show gain even more traction, setting up one American tour and, to a point, the upcoming tour scheduled to take place in 2023.
The show played at the Broadway Playhouse with local casting and a completely different crew – with some exceptions. According to the Chicago Tribune, the show was a success and managed to present its genre in the best possible light.
Is It Good for Families and Kids?
The recommended viewing age for The Play That Goes Wrong is eight years and older. After seeing the show, I can agree completely. There’s no explicit humor or offensive language, and the themes are understandable for most audiences, including kids.
The only thing that could put a good family time in question would be the show’s runtime. As much as funny situations keep happening on stage, two hours might be a bit too much to sit through for particularly active kids.
About New World Stages Stage 4
New World Stages started almost three decades ago as a movie theater. The current look, purpose, and name of the venue date back to 2006. Since then, New World Stages has featured many theater productions, concerts, and other events.
Stage 4 represents an ideal theater for off-Broadway shows. The auditorium is mid-size, large enough to house grand productions but sufficiently small to keep the performances intimate.
The theater has an elevator, wheelchair access, and universally accessible restrooms on two levels. There are wheelchair sections with companion seats, as well as aisle transfer arm seats on the orchestra level. New World Stages Stage 4 can receive 350 audience members.
Get Your Tickets
If you’re looking for some direct, uncomplicated humor with a hint of deeper overtones, The Play That Goes Wrong will be your thing. The best way to describe this play is this: Picture a classic, serious drama with a gloomy atmosphere and deep, hard-to-grasp messages. Now imagine the direct opposite of that.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a train of fun that doesn’t stop until the two-hour mark. If you want an experience that will make you relax and burst out laughing at the same time, don’t hesitate to hop on board.
Click here to order your tickets and take a wild ride as soon as this weekend.