Broadway Review: 'The Play That Goes Wrong'

Chris Peterson

OnStage Editor-in-Chief

Fact: One can die from laughing. Intense fits of laughter can cause cardiac arrest or asphyxiation. It doesn't happen often but there have been documented cases. For instance, the 1988 movie comedy A Fish Called Wanda features a scene where actor Michael Palin gets some French fries stuffed up his nose. In 1989, a Danish audiologist named Ole Bentzen found the scene so sidesplittingly funny that his heart rate rose to an estimated 250-500 beats per minute, leading to a heart attack as he laughed his way into the afterlife.

I don't mean to start this review with this grim tale, but if this is possible, then I am genuinely worried about audiences who see The Play That Goes Wrong, because it just might be the funniest show they'll ever see. 

The hit from the West End, which opened way back in 2012, has finally landed on Broadway and the worth has been well worth the wait. For two plus hours, the non-stop barrage of gags, flubs and high-jinks is the likes that Broadway audiences haven't seen since Noises Off! and The Play That Goes Wrong makes Michael Frayn's classic look like a drama.

This farce introduces audiences to the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, a performance troupe attempting to put on a 1920s murder mystery. As the title suggests, it doesn’t go so well, and the accident-prone thespians fight against all odds to make it through the performance to final bows. 

The cast, which has been together since their run in London, have perfected every bit of timing and dialogue this piece features. They include, Matthew Cavendish, Bryony Corrigan, Rob Falconer, Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Greg Tannahill, and Nancy Zamit. Together, this troupe gives a master class in comedy. It's one of the very few shows I wouldn't mind seeing every night, from every single different seat, just to see everything that happens on stage. 

Another star of the show that should get equal billing, is Nigel Hook's scenic design. It may not look like much when first seeing it, but trust me, the brilliance is more than meets the eye. 

All these elements combine in a non-stop laugh riot which had more than a couple fellow audience members laughing so hard, I thought they might hack up a lung. All in all, I couldn't recommend seeing this show any more. Just make sure to consult with a doctor first. 

The Play That Goes Wrong is directed by Mark Bell and features set design by Nigel Hook, lighting design by Ric Mountjoy, sound design by Andy Johnson, and costume design by Roberto Surace.