VOL. 25 - NO. 8
FEB 16 - 23, 2020
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TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENT: SHN Broadway in San Francisco: “The Play That Goes Wrong” – Is Alright!

Aug 16, 2019
by Aaron Pewther
After an award-winning run in Broadway & London, this hilarious play-within-a-play, makes a quick one-week tour through San Francisco, from August 13 to 18 at Golden Gate Theatre (1 Taylor St). Audiences of all ages may enjoy a hilarious take on what might happen if, during a particularly awful opening night of a community play called, "The Murder at Haversham Manor", was put together as a low-budget, poorly rehearsed, amateurishly acted by a bunch of misfits, and the set itself steals the show with endless mishaps.

Although the play is initially staged around the murder mystery of Charles Haversham (Jonathan Harris), the plot quickly seems to focus on the awkward actors of the satirical play, as they are forced to soldier on through countless blunders, some outside their control, while they attempt to maintain a professional appearance for the audience. Unfortunately, there is a problem, things go from bad to worse. 

The play opens with the Director (Chris Beam), in addition to performing multiple duties, including the main character of Inspector Carter, plus humorously credited with endless other responsibilities, taking the stage and stating with anguish in front of the curtain, to warn the audience that most everything will probably go wrong, and to exercise patience. That is an understatement!

Throughout the next two hours, the personality of each actor introduced is more odd than the next, opening with the character, Perkins the Butler (Dennis Tyde), finding the body of the deceased, and needing to read complicated words from his lines written on his hands, yet still mispronouncing them, and taking the gaffes personally, in visible, gut-wrenching anguish.  Then, the lead actress and fiancé to the deceased, Florence Colleymoore (Sandra Wilkinson) appears, and only seems interested in nailing modelling poses, rather than speak her lines. Eventually she gets cold-cocked by a door (which has a personality of its own), by another actor. She is then haphazardly dragged out through a center window during the performance, replaced quickly by the Stage Manager (Annie Twilloil), who nervously is forced to fill-in temporarily, stammering and commiserating her lines from a loose-leaf notebook. Recognizing that the audience is reacting to her words, she becomes enthralled by the positive reinforcement, and starts performing her role with gusto, eventually physically assaulting the original actress repeatedly, whenever the former tries to resume her role.

Although the set takes center stage, it also figuratively consumes most of the visually energy by failing to stay together for many of the scenes, coming increasingly unhinged as the show progresses, requiring the actors to perform as if the spatial mishaps were secondary.

The rest of the play is briefly interrupted by the Sound Operator (Trevor Watson), whose fascination with finding his CD of Duran Duran music, playing their songs accidentally, as well as missing other sound cues. As expected, he gets to perform on stage, as Florence, before the set also knocks him unconscious. 

Set props become part of the act too, mostly for being misplaced, requiring the actors to improvise as if they were the expected item. 

Some of the more physical comedy revolves around two characters, Cecil Haversham & The Gardener (both played by Max Bennett), where the actor increasingly speaks their lines demonstratively, and relishing the audience response, furthers his resolve to heighten the performance intensity to seemingly unlimited levels, eventually devolving to thrusting and jester wildly across the stage throughout the show, seemingly unaware of the script intentions, including to ignore the questionable infatuations of Florence. 

Lastly, the most paternal character, Thomas Colleymoore (Robert Grove), is mostly relegated to assist the Inspector, as he supposedly attempt to solve the mystery together, although he is mostly trying to appear innocent to any wrongdoing, while he covers for himself and his sister. The victim, Charles Haversham, who performs mostly from the back stage, after being dragged off the set after the initial murder scene, consistently reappears at the incorrect time for his signature gotcha moment, or to clean up from the play mishaps, 

Oh, there is a resolution to the murder-mystery story taking place, however, by the time of this reveal, the plot is mostly lost, including a forgettable cliff hanger, spoken in rapid fire dialogue, which would hardly be a spoiler, because at that point, the entire play, and set, come crashing down to signify the end of the performance. 

Enjoy the show, with ode to vaudeville, silent films and slapstick comedy. Hang on for the ride!

"The Play That Goes Wrong" runs about two hours five minutes with an intermission. For more information please visit www.shnsf.com.

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Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel (production stills)


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