Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Broadway in Tucson Review: "The Play That Goes Wrong"

It's hard work to look awful and incompetent. "The Play That Goes Wrong" hones a goofy cavalcade of failure to a fever-pitched edge of incisive humor.

The setup: A low-rung British theater society opens up an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery set within a mansion. The set is falling apart, behind-the-scenes techs are always meddling and screwing things up, actors forget their lines and take a bulldozer to the fourth wall.

A masterwork of set design, impeccably-timed blocking and layered comedic writing that operates on simultaneous levels, "The Play That Goes Wrong" lathers up a firestorm of Vaudeville-style comedy, melding slapstick, corny one-liners and absurd, over-the-top catastrophes in a headlong dive into a funhouse of mirror that mocks the theater world.

Although the true masterminds of director Matt DiCarlo's production are behind the scenes, all of the antics would fall flat if not executed by a masterful cast. Jason Bowen, Chris Lancely, Chris French and Michael Thatcher make up a geek chorus of goofiness as house staffers, siblings and, yes, theater techs stumble through the mishap-plagued mystery.

Jacqueline Jarrold shines as Sandra, a would-be femme fatale who finds herself in the focal point of the intrigue. Bianca Horn is her apt complement -- as well as her fight partner -- as a tech who fills in as Sandra when the actress is out of commission. The dynamic forms the core of the madcap insanity that radiates throughout the stage, as well as the rest of the theater.

Credit DiCarlo's creative team for being able to adjust on the fly, with the cast calling out audience members at opportune times, as well as a priceless, made-for-Tucson monologue that roasts the city's inferiority complex with Phoenix, as well as the UA's rivalry with ASU.

"The Play That Goes Wrong" thrives by breaking all the rules with a Mack truck, then happily backing up over the wreckage and repeating the process. Overkill is the order of the day, but the smile on your face will last the full two-hour running time, as well as the giddy drive home. The play may go wrong, and that's why everything feels so right.

"The Play That Goes Wrong" plays through Sunday at Centennial Hall. For tickets, click here.

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