The Albion College Theatre Department’s production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” was a complete and total flop. The cast barely knew their lines, the sound operator was busy listening to “Duran Duran” – not for their next cue – and the director, even seeming to know this, continued both acts of the play.
The most atrocious part of the production was three people being knocked unconscious by the injurious set during the production. With several objects falling from walls and doors becoming stuck or breaking off, the word “deathtrap” would be putting it nicely.
While “The Murder at Haversham Manor” was disastrous, “The Play That Goes Wrong” was a side-splittingly excellent show. From dead bodies moving to lines being “forgotten,” the actors portray mishap after mishap, all while the audience roars with laughter.
“I love shows where I get to interact with the audience. Talking to people at the beginning of the show and at intermission is really fun,” Columbus senior Orion Hower said.
Hower said they enjoyed their role as Chris, the director of a struggling theater company, who “plays” the role of Inspector Carter.
“You’re essentially playing two different characters, and you need to create a character development for the actor,” Hower said. “So I made one for Chris and then you have to think how the (actor-character) that you’ve created would play (their acting role), and that’s been a really interesting challenge,” Hower said.
In addition to their role on stage, they are also the production’s fight captain behind the scenes. As fight captain, Hower runs practices on every part of the play where an actor could be at risk of a real injury. These practice runs occur half an hour before the play and any rehearsals they do.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” has a few fights and several bumps, hits and other instances where an actor’s safety is a huge priority. Marquette junior Kat Voogd’s character was, at one point, turned on her side while locked inside a grandfather clock.
“(It) was terrifying the first couple of times, but everybody who moves it is very, very careful and they assured me that every time that we did it, I was going to be safe,” Voogd said.
In addition to the grandfather clock bit, her character suffered injury after injury throughout the play.
“You have to be very aware of where you are at all times,” Voogd said. “It takes a lot of practice to make sure that I’m not going to actually get hit and to get the sound right, which is honestly the most difficult part.”
While actors are crucial to the success of any play, a good set can make or break a production. Bizarrely, not only did this set make the play a success, it did it by completely demolishing the actors and itself.
The unique set of “The Play That Goes Wrong” emulates the same thrown-togetherness as its actors, falling apart in an astonishing manner right until the end. Behind the scenes, the secret to the dynamic set is described as a bit of “theater magic,” as said by director Mark Hoffland. This is Hoffland’s final production as director and he plans to retire at the end of the year.
“I told Joel (the play’s technical director) the number one thing we needed right off the bat was the window so that we could start practicing lifts and find out how difficult things were. It’s a very collaborative effort,” Hoffland said. “You can thank Joel and Kaya Kaiser (the play’s set designer) for all that. They had to figure out how everything that happens, happens during the play.”
With all these moving parts, the end result was incredible to watch. From actors drinking paint thinner to words having garbled pronunciations, I enjoyed watching the way they kept certain jokes consistent throughout the play’s duration. If the theatre department is ever in need of a comedic twist to any play, I think taking the core idea of this play and integrating it into more classical plays would be fantastic to watch.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” is an excellent start to the theater department’s four-play production season. If this is any indication of how well the theater department is doing this semester, I look forward to the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse with the theater’s next production, “2AZ,” on the bleak horizon.
For now, “The Play That Goes Wrong” was amazing and, despite the name, goes absolutely right.