I attended The Play That Goes Wrong on a friend’s recommendation. I will never forgive him.
The touring production runs at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., through December 16, and was well-received by the audience on opening night. I’m genuinely glad some folks find fun in this Mischief Theatre production. I found it dreadful.
The premise is nothing new, a recurring theme throughout the evening. The faux Cornley University Drama Society, an “hilarious” band of misfits, scenery chewers and stage hogs, stages a misbegotten production of The Murder at Haversham Manor. The conceit is a recycled iteration of Waiting for Guffman, to name one. And The Coarse Acting Show, to name two.
Starting at the top, the two stage managers are pulled into the mayhem. The eight actors are energetic and athletic, as they must be to race across such hackneyed material. There is no comedic rule of threes here; if the writers find something funny, they repeat it over and over. And over. Endless spit takes, mispronunciations, bad faux snow, door schtick and falling set pieces, for which the actors mysteriously feel the need to hold up on the walls, instead of simply setting them down as real actors would do if something went amiss.
The two women in the cast were cold-cocked with such frequency it felt like Roger Ailes’ office. It was painful to watch, like an episode of Home Improvement, which recycles the same handful of lame bits: Tim Allen grunting like an ape and reciting malapropisms while “accidentally” blowing something up. Thankfully, the play finally ends (while we’re stuck with Tool Time in perpetuity via syndication).
The production runs on Broadway through January, and is now in its fourth year in London. My plus-one agreed that the two-hour show was a West End cash grab. This the first big budget show he’s seen since moving to Chicago. I’m embarrassed. In the comedy capital, we can do better.
The Play That Goes Wrong runs at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., through December 16. Tickets are $25-98.