Broadway Playhouse farce is fast, furious and oh so funny

  • The murder of Charles Haversham (Joseph Anthony Byrd), in purple jacket, in the fictional whodunit "The Murder at Haversham Manor" makes suspects of his friends and relatives (Michael Kurowski, Jonah D. Winston, Jarred Webb and Kelly O'Sullivan) in Broadway Playhouse's revival of "The Play That Goes Wrong."

    The murder of Charles Haversham (Joseph Anthony Byrd), in purple jacket, in the fictional whodunit "The Murder at Haversham Manor" makes suspects of his friends and relatives (Michael Kurowski, Jonah D. Winston, Jarred Webb and Kelly O'Sullivan) in Broadway Playhouse's revival of "The Play That Goes Wrong." Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

 
 
Updated 12/20/2021 1:54 PM

"The Play That Goes Wrong" -- ★ ★ ★

Everything is right with Broadway Playhouse's production of "The Play That Goes Wrong."

 

From the actors' spot-on timing and deliciously droll delivery to their spit-takes and pratfalls, nearly everything works in this top-notch revival of the hit farce about an amateur theater company's disastrous production of a fictional British whodunit in which everything that can go wrong, does.

Cornley University Drama Society members Joseph Anthony Byrd, clockwise from left, Jonah D. Winston, Ernaisja Curry and Colton Adams try to help their unconscious castmate (Kelly O'Sullivan) in "The Play That Goes Wrong" at Chicago's Broadway Playhouse.
Cornley University Drama Society members Joseph Anthony Byrd, clockwise from left, Jonah D. Winston, Ernaisja Curry and Colton Adams try to help their unconscious castmate (Kelly O'Sullivan) in "The Play That Goes Wrong" at Chicago's Broadway Playhouse. - Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

The laughs come fast and frequently in director Matt DiCarlo's production, which boasts a terrific cast comprised mostly of highly skilled comedic actors with strong Chicago ties.

The premise is this: the fictitious Cornley University Drama Society, a hapless troupe of aspiring thespians, is performing the fictional "The Murder at Haversham Manor," a creaky murder mystery. Marriott and Drury Lane veteran Matt Mueller plays the president of the drama society whose many functions include the play-within's director, designer, dramaturge and dialect coach among others.

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Jarred Webb, right, seen here with Jonah D. Winston, plays an enthusiastic newcomer to the fictional Cornley University Drama Society who milks every moment on stage in Broadway in Chicago's "The Play That Goes Wrong."
Jarred Webb, right, seen here with Jonah D. Winston, plays an enthusiastic newcomer to the fictional Cornley University Drama Society who milks every moment on stage in Broadway in Chicago's "The Play That Goes Wrong." - Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

He also plays the inspector investigating the murder of wealthy estate owner (the great Joseph Anthony Byrd) who turns out to be a most agile and resourceful corpse. The very funny Jarred Webb plays a neophyte actor whose performance becomes increasingly outrageous the more audience encouragement he receives. Ernaisja Curry is the stage manager who reluctantly takes over for leading lady (Kelly O'Sullivan) after she's knocked unconscious during the performance. (Curry and O'Sullivan's ongoing battle to claim the role is among the highlights of the "The Play That Goes Wrong.") Michael Kurowski is the memory-challenged actor playing the butler; Colton Adams is the distracted, Duran Duran-loving sound and lighting technician; and Michael Thatcher (substituting for Jonah D. Winston during Saturday's performance) is the team player who attempts to head off disaster by (literally) holding the scenery together.

Jonah D. Winston, left, Michael Kurowski, Matt Mueller and Jarred Webb play the members of an amateur drama troupe in "The Play That Goes Wrong" at the Broadway Playhouse.
Jonah D. Winston, left, Michael Kurowski, Matt Mueller and Jarred Webb play the members of an amateur drama troupe in "The Play That Goes Wrong" at the Broadway Playhouse. - Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

To give away more would spoil the considerable delights of this 2012 comedy by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. The trio signal the comic mayhem about to unfold at the onset when Cornley U crew members make a few last-minute repairs to a stuck door, a faulty fireplace mantle and a missing floor plank, the repair of which results in a broken hammer. Things go downhill from there as the actors struggle with forgotten dialogue, missed technical cues, misplaced props and a rickety set by Nigel Hook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But there's more than laughs to recommend the play. I found these characters' efforts to continue the production in spite of the distraction surrounding them endearing.

Everything's right about the revival of the farcical "The Play That Goes Wrong" running through Jan. 30 at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago.
Everything's right about the revival of the farcical "The Play That Goes Wrong" running through Jan. 30 at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago. - Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

That said, the play could use some paring. Some of the gags go on too long, and the slapstick gets repetitive, but the farce accomplishes its goal: It puts a smile on your face. And there's nothing wrong with that.

• • •

Location: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000, broadwayinchicago.com/

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 30. Also 2 p.m. Dec. 22, 24, 29, Jan. 5, 12 and 26; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19, 26 and 27, and Jan. 2 and 23. No shows Dec. 25 and Jan. 1

Tickets: $26.50-$91.50

Running time: About 2 hours 10 minutes, with intermission

Parking: Validated parking in the Water Tower Place garage

Rating: For teens and older

COVID-19 precautions: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test and masking required

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