Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 27, 2018

REVIEW: The Bushnell, The Play That Goes Wrong

The Bushell, Hartford, CT
through September 30, 2018
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Jeremy Daniels
While a Bushnell patron may think that he/she has purchased a ticket to the comedy “The Play That Goes Wrong” by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayr and Henry Shields that is only partly correct. The primary story is the play-within-a-play, “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” The Cornley University Drama Society has transported itself from the British Isles and landed in Hartford for one week. The troupe, called Mischief Theatre, sticks to its name with naughtiness even prior to the play’s start, continuing for the next two hours.

For those theatregoers who might have a Top 10 list of plays which include “Noises Off” by Michael Frayn, then this production is an ideal choice. If other comedies include “The Real Thing” (Tom Stoppard) or “Play On” (Rick Abbot), “The Play That Goes Wrong” will be a treat. The theme, format, and characters are, for the most part, similar. Throw in the slapstick of “Shear Madness” (Paul Portner) and the wit of many David Ives’ works, and again, you have “…Wrong”. Most of those making up the opening night full house at the Bushnell were thrilled to see the similarities and laughed, almost incessantly.

The Sherlock-like plot takes an inspector to a lavish countryside English manor. Kudos to set designer Nigel Hook, whose work is impeccable, having created immense, extravagant, and grand staging. In fact, the set is every bit a “character” as the humans onstage. Of course, there is the who-dun-it murder. The audience wastes no time in caring about the mystery, because the true mystery is just what ridiculous, chaotic, and hilarious thing will happen next. Pratfalls, dialogue blunders, missed cues, and slapstick abound. However, many times, these segments go on a little too long or are repetitive. Yes, the length and monotony have comedy in mind. This is the script’s “flaw,” but the audience is bright enough to say, “Okay, we got it, no need to do it again.”

“The Play That Goes Wrong” is The Bushnell’s challenge to mount a non-musical production to initiate it’s 2018/19 season. By the laughter and obvious fun, it certainly seemed like a success.

There’s more to enjoy after the return home from the theatre – reading the program book. Actor bios are quite inventive, and in keeping with the evening’s entertainment.