Performance #3: The Play That Goes Wrong

Never have I seen such a catastrophe of a performance.

     For once, I do not mean that as an insult. The Play that Goes Wrong was the most technically dangerous show that I’ve ever encountered. By the end of the play (sorry about the spoilers) most of the walls of the set ended up falling and the lights were breaking around the actors. Truly anything that could’ve gone wrong did. (We saw this show on Tuesday night  at the Duchess Theatre.)

     I thought the (extremely well timed) chaos was the best and worst feature of this show. By the end of the first act I was extremely bored because of how chaotic the show had become. There were no moments of calm or steadiness, so I felt tired because of over stimulation. Act I ended with the wall fixtures repeatedly falling over and the actors stumbling through the scene attempting to hold all of the fixtures to the wall. It was too much for me. As someone who has personally had scenes that have failed, why would I care more about the paintings than trying to recover the scene? There were so many instances of extreme physicality that seemed choreographed purely for the laugh rather than “practicality.” I got bored because the “mistakes” in Act I started to lose their sense of surprise. I think it was because there was just too much going wrong at one time.  Act II was leaps and bounds better! Although it was even more catastrophic, there was a genuine sense of danger and surprise. At one point the second floor began to collapse, leaving the actors stuck with the extreme trickiness of finding a way off. At another point an actor trapezed on a light fixture that had broken from the light grid! It excited and terrified me to think of how dangerous this show could’ve actually been if any of the tricks had gone wrong. The timing was incredible-I mean, it had to be!

    I realize that the acting was supposed to be extremely broad and over the top, but similar to the blocking, at times it was boring because of how excessive the actors were. Their performances were like watching heightened dinner theatre acting. Although I criticize, I did belly laugh a great deal. Overall it was a very funny performance! I shrieked and jumped out of my seat many times when the final calamities were happening. I do not think it was the actors themselves that I disliked, rather the writing and the directing was too much for me. This definitely was not a “provocative” show like 1984, but not every show needs to be intensely shocking! Remember, people, theatre is also to entertain. There’s no better cure for the blues (or an increasingly mad presidential campaign) than laughing away a few hours in a day.





2 thoughts on “Performance #3: The Play That Goes Wrong

  1. Anna Kate, I’m enjoying reading your comments about the plays! It took me a while to realize that the catastrophe you describe in this play was orchestrated! It was a planned flop. At what point does planning a catastrophe spoil the idea of things running amok? This week I’ve been reading the writings of the first woman we know to have penned a text in vernacular English: the anchorite theologian Julian of Norwich. She was living amidst some very real catastrophes: Black Death, 3 successive and massive floods, and religious wars. Her answer to the walls coming down was confidence in this simple prayer of hope: “All manner of things shall be well.” Keep writing these great posts! They are terrific.


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