The Play that Goes Wrong is the living embodiment of what happens when the actor’s motto “The Show Must Go On” becomes a suicide pact. There are so many superlatives I could throw around about this show that you could be forgiven for believing that this review was written by an overzealous marketing intern from the theater’s production company. It’s zany, over-the-top, non-stop laughs from the moment you arrive in the theater (indeed, the on-stage antics start well before the show officially starts, so keep your phone in your purse/pocket).
As may be obvious from the title, The Play that Goes Wrong is a show within a show, where all of the characters are members of a theater company doing their best to put on a show under increasingly disastrous conditions. The story is both the mystery the actors are trying to perform and the trials they endure as they soldier on to the bitter end.
The marketing folks say that the show is “Sherlock Holmes meets Monty Python,” which made me a bit skeptical, particularly after seeing Spamalot just a few weeks ago across the river, but I think it’s the comparison that misses the mark, not the show. The story is really more like Waiting for Guffman meets Abbott and Costello’s Who Done It, as it combines tropes about earnest, but out-of-their-league actors with a cheesy murder mystery about actors trying to get into a radio drama by posing as detectives. The show-within-a-show concept is centuries old, but I’ve never seen it done so skillfully or hilariously.
If you’re tired of all of the tired conversions of 80’s and 90’s movies being passed off as musical theater (remember High Fidelity or Carrie?), this is an incredibly refreshing and engaging way to spend an evening. Also, with a run time of just over two hours, including intermission, you can laugh until it hurts and still make it home to catch the evening news. What more do you need?
The Play That Goes Wrong is at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through May 12, 2019. Tickets start at $29.