Thursday, January 26, 2023

Laughter abounds in 'The Play That Goes Wrong'

Guests at Haversham Manor drink a toast to their departed host. (Photo by Scott Lasky)


It takes great skill and talent to stage a play that’s supposed to be as glitch-ridden as “The Play That Goes Wrong” by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields.

Luckily, Palo Alto Players’ cast and crew have an abundance of both in this 2012 play within a play. Six of the eight actors are double-cast, playing roles in the inner  play, “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” which is supposedly presented by an English company, the Cornley Drama Society.”

Its convoluted plot involves the murder of Charles Haversham (Drew Benjamin Jones on opening night, alternating with Christopher Mahle), the night of the party celebrating his engagement to Sandra (Michelle Skinner).

The suspects are everyone there that evening, including his brother, Cecil (Braden Taylor), and the butler, Perkins (Brandon Silberstein). Inspector Carter (Brad Satterwhite) is looking into the case as complications arise.

Along the way, everything that could possibly go wrong does. The Cornley actor playing Charles can’t get comfortable on the chaise. Decorative items fall off the wall. A stretcher tears apart. Even the upstairs library collapses.

Sandra disappears, forcing Annie (Jen Maggio, alternating with Damaris Divito), a reluctant, then preening stage hand to fill in for her. Cornley actors flub their lines.

The action evolves into hilarious farce, leaving the plot somewhat irrelevant and requiring the actors to be ever more acrobatic and agile. Small wonder some strenuous roles are double-cast.

Director Katie O’Bryon Champlin guides the cast through all this mayhem with spot-on timing. Great credit goes to scenic designers Patrick Klein and Kevin Davies for building a set fraught with danger while keeping the actors safe.

The fight and fall consultant is Dexter Fidler. Costumes are by Jenny Garcia, lighting by Carsten Koester and sound by Jeff Grafton. Others were crucial in  creating this show.

Plot is secondary to the visual and aural delights in this hilarious play with its talented cast and crew.

Running about two hours with an intermission, “The Play That Goes Wrong” will continue through Feb. 5 at the Lucie Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit