Theater Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG (Desert Theater Works in Indio)

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by Jason Mannino on April 28, 2023

in Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley)


The Play That Goes Wrong running through Sunday, April 30 at Desert Theater Works (DTW) in Indio is the only comedy to ever win both a Tony and Olivier award. It is a hilarious, farcical masterpiece of human and technical stage malfunction — by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields — that offers a night full of belly laughs.

The play within a play concept has been famously used before in another highly regarded British farce, Noises Off. Here, it is The “Cornley University Drama Society” who are attempting to produce a murder mystery, The Murder at Haversham Manor. But, as soon as we enter the theater, everything that can go wrong with the production begins to unravel. The actors, up-against insurmountable challenges, incessantly try to make it right as hilarity ensues.

Kam Sisco, masterfully leading the cast, assumes the role of Christopher Rosewater, the director of the murder mystery who is also the company player for the role of Inspector Carter. Sisco’s first task is to inform the audience they are attempting to put on their play with a very reduced staff and limited resources. He reminds the audience as well, that they may have seen other productions during challenging times when the company was forced to do the great Chekhov work The Two Sisters and the musical Cat.

Michael Pacas plays Robert McGillicuddy-Smythe, the actor playing the role of Thomas Colleymore; he nails the physical comedy and is a great foil to Sisco and Georgina Medina, who is also hysterical as his sister, Florence Colleymore.

Adriana Reyes portrays Annie, who is supposed to be the stage manager for the play. Reyes is one of the most naturally funny and unassuming actors in the production until she forced to replace one actress and subsequently fights to the end to keep the role. Jeremia Garcia takes on his first non-musical role that I’ve seen, and I was impressed with how natural, confident, and funny he is.

Herb K. Schultz plays the company actor Jonathan St. James, who plays murder victim Charles Haversham. His only task in the role is to play dead. However, this proves challenging given the antics and mishaps of every other actor/character on stage with him. As the actor, Schultz meets the challenge and contributes significantly to the play’s humor.

There is also no shortage of humor in Wille Eide’s performance. He is the only actor in the production playing three roles, including Max, the company actor portraying Cecil Haversham. Much of his hysterics come when, as Max, he discovers that he can elicit a plethora of attention from the audience when he breaks the fourth wall. There is a gleam in his eye as he does exactly that every chance he gets.

Rounding out this hysterical ensemble is Ron Young, in the role of actor Dennis, portraying Perkins, the butler in the Cornley production. When Perkins is not pouring drinks made from unconsumable liquids, Dennis is doing an impeccable job as the most incompetent actor in the company. Young, as well, is a commanding actor doing an excellent job playing a bad one.

Directing actors who are playing at least two roles is no small feat. Directing good actors who play bad actors easily doubles that challenge. Lance Phillips rises to the occasion with this cast. He also achieves the insurmountable task of guiding the ensemble to work effectively with Paul Mariani’s wonderfully designed set — and its hysterical inefficiencies — that is falling apart at every turn. The set actually becomes an additional character that the Cornley company has to deal with. Thankfully, all you have to do is watch.

photos by Sonny Von Cleveland

The Play That Goes Wrong
Desert Theater Works
Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo Street in Indio
ends on April 30, 2023
for tickets, call 760.980.1455 or visit dtworks

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