Lively Corpse, Collapsing Set


You’ll laugh out loud at The Play That Goes Wrong, the slapstick comedy running through Sunday at the Orpheum Theater.

If you find it hilarious when set pieces fall off the walls you’ll laugh out loud sooner than I did.

But then I arrived with a “show me” attitude after reading raves claiming it was the funniest play ever.

One enthusiast even talked about laughing so hard he had trouble breathing, and a similar report showed up in the daily’s review. Let me suggest that, yes, it’s a very funny romp but not in the class with “Noises Off” and a number of others.

Thankfully, it really gets rolling after a relatively lame start and one actor played the largest part in overcoming my resistance. I loved Ned Noyes, who took such delight in pleasing the audience as Max who plays Cecil Haversham, who has been cuckolding his murdered brother in the play within the play, “The Murder at Haversham Manor.”

If the audience reacted positively to any move by Noyes, he’d respond with a foolish grin and repeat the move with a melodramatic flourish.  Later he appears as a gardener with a fierce imaginary dog tugging at its chain.

Another favorite whose shtick got better as he went along was Yaegel T. Welch who played the very lively Haversham corpse. I wasn’t laughing out loud in the early going, but he got me when he noticed that others saw him outside a window and he decided to cover by pretending to be a ghost.

Tall Evan Alexander Smith as the Inspector investigating the murder indignantly chastises the audience for daring to laugh at such a serious crime, and Robert Grove adds a dash of subtler humor when he offers a deep-voice formality to the most raucous mishaps.  Scott Cote as Perkins, the faithful Haversham servant, looks in his palm when he needs helping finding his lines.

And so it goes with each of the eight players, especially the two women: Jamie Ann Romero as the sexy little fiancé of the murder victim and lover of his brother, and Angela Grovey as the stage manager.

She grabs a script and fills in for Jamie when one of the many mishaps requires that her limp body, scantily-attired in panties and a skimpy negligee, be dragged out through that conveniently open window. And that wasn’t her first “dragged-off-dead” exit.

Now that I’m recalling one intentional “going wrong” after another, it’s due time to recall that the scenic design won major Broadway honors.  Not because of aesthetic appeal, but because of the ingenious and perfectly timed disasters.

Keep a close eye on a sort of second-floor platform that houses several scenes before suffering a problem or two.  

Arrive early and you’ll spot cast members, including Brandon Ellis as the lighting and sound operator mingling with the audience and apparently preparing for the show to begin. It took some time for it to tickle my funny bone, and it never quite took my breath away, but all in all it lived up to the promise of a lively start to the Performing Arts Broadway series.

If it falls short of such slapstick favorites as Noises Off, Lend Me a Tenor or Moon Over Buffalo, blame the fact that those shows balance the pratfalls with some investment in the characters.

The Play That Goes Wrong runs through Sunday at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St., in the Omaha Performing Arts Broadway series. It plays 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets from $25 to $80 are available at ticketomaha.com or by calling 402.345.0606.


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