Theater Review: The Play That Goes Wrong

Gil Brady as Chris, Jacqueline Jarrold as Sandra, Freddie Lee Bennett as Trevor, Timothy C Goodwin as Jonathan, and Jordan Ahnquist as Max. Photo by John Jones.
Gil Brady as Chris, Jacqueline Jarrold as Sandra, Freddie Lee Bennett as Trevor, Timothy C Goodwin as Jonathan, and Jordan Ahnquist as Max. Photo by John Jones.
Dennis "Mitch" Maley
SARASOTA — It seemed more than a little ironic when COVID complications forced not one but two delays to the opening of Florida Studio Theatre’s latest production, The Play That Goes Wrong. However, when the comedy finally opened last Friday, it proved worth the wait.

The play—written by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathon Sayer, and first produced under a different title in 2012—is a slapstick comedy filled with physical gags and actor pratfalls. There’s not much to think about, but the laughs come frequently and the comedy is sustained at an impressive pace, despite its simplicity and predictability.

The West Palmetto Drama Society is about to open a production of The Murder of Haversham Manor under the direction of its new and extremely enthusiastic mustachioed leader, Chris Bean (Gil Brady). As seems to be typical of the troop, everything goes wrong, even before the curtain rises.

The play-within-a-play structure provides many opportunities for comedic hijinx and the entire cast is up to the demanding nature of the fast-paced fun. Brady is fabulous as Bean, the ultra-serious straight-man of the comedy ensemble, and Scott Cote gives a riotous performance as Dennis, a hapless actor who plays Perkins, the butler, in the in-story production.

Emily Berman is downright hilarious as Annie, the stage manager who gets roped into reading one of the parts when the lead actress suffers a mid-play concussion, and Jordan Ahnquist gets loads of laughs as Max. John Long also gives a standout performance in his FST debut as Robert, arguably the most capable of the West Palmetto Players. Freedy Lee Bennett, Timothy Goodwin and Jacqueline Jarrold round out an excellent cast.

The real stand-out performance, however, may come from Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay, who have designed a special-effect laden set that gets almost as many oohs and ahs as the play gets laughs, which is to say an abundance.

The Play That Goes Wrong runs through March 27 in FST's Gompertz Theatre. Click here for ticket and schedule information.

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