Here’s what I love about the WNY theatre community: there are the classics; there are the thought-provoking in-your-head-dramas; there are the social justice productions; there are soul-lifting musicals galore; and then there are the shows that are so silly and funny you laugh all the way home. And that, my friends, is The Play That Goes Wrong, onstage now at D’Youville Kavinoky Theatre.
It’s one of those “plays about a play” that gives the audience a glimpse behind the curtain at theatre’s inner workings. Although in this show, theatre’s inner workings aren’t working very well. This theatre company’s newest production is “The Murder at Haversham Manor” and at first, it’s the set that’s suffering from mantle pieces falling off and the director’s Duran Duran boxed set among the missing. And then the corpse isn’t properly dead. And the prop mistress is reluctantly recast and eventually gets charmingly stage struck when the ingenue is suddenly stricken. Well, you get the picture.
What makes this production a cut above the usual play-within-a-play hijinks routines is the attention to detail all around. From Dyan Burlingame’s clever two-level set (spoiler alert, pieces break off a lot), costumes designed by Andrea Letcher to Donny Woodard’s collection of props, these fine points make a delightful production all the more special. Chris Cavanagh technical direction and trick creation (that’s what the program says) is pure stage magic.
The “actors” in this ersthwhile theatre company all play dual roles here. Brian Mysliwy is at his best as Inspector Carter whose searching for the killer. Kodi James’ best moments are as the deceased, and no, he’s not just laying there playing dead. He has one-eye-open (literally!) on what’s going on and he’s spot on. Don Gervasi is a riot as Thomas Colleymoore, resident rich guy in the manor. Jacob Albarella’s servant role is wonderfully understated and a snotty step out of any British drama on public broadcasting. It’s Steve Copps in the triad role that had me in stitches. His smallest part as Arthur the Gardener was the one to watch. He muggs for the audience. He smiles at the spotlight. He’s so good at being so bad. Alexandria Watts and Afrim Gjonbalaj as the stagehands were the perfect deadpan foils for the stage chaos of this acting troupe.
What I love best is that the show makes no apologies for what it is: a beautifully done send up of a theatre company that takes itself oh so seriously as stage disaster happens all around. It’s funny, it’s relaxing, and it’s just what we need in our theatre landscape right now. Kudos to directors Michael Galante and Adriano Gattos for assembling this just right onstage and offstage team.
The Play That Goes Wrong runs two hours with a 15-minute intermission to March 19. Make the time, see the show, laugh ‘til you can’t laugh anymore.