The Play That Goes Wrong… and Goes, and Goes, and Goes…

By Ernest Kearney – The Play That Goes Wrong is a huge Hindenburg of a cartoon which has found its mooring mast at the Ahmanson Theatre. Perhaps the “cartoon” lacks the screwiness of a Tex Avery or Chuck Jones romp, but it delivers solid Magilla Gorilla if not Blitz Wolf.

Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields of the aptly named Mischief Theatre Company the play won the 2015 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy before pratfalling its way across the pond and across the continent to us.

The lights come up on the dead, lifeless body of Charles Haversham (Yaegel T. Welch) lying lifeless and dead on the divan. Well lifeless and dead and trying to get to the divan. A victim of fowl play! Thus begins The Cornley University Drama Society’s presentation of a Plath within the platy, The Murder at Haversham Manor, an Agatha Christie murder mystery except without a murder.

Lot of mayhem, but no…murder.

And no Agatha Christie. She had nothing to do with this show. (The old trout’s been dead for years.)

Soon Inspector Carter (Evan Alexander Smith) arrives on the scene and the games afoot!

And there’s more suspects than you can shake a….a shaky thing for shaking at.

There’s the mugging Cecil (Ned Noyes) the victim’s brother, his bulchin faced best friend Thomas Colleymoore (Peyton Crim), his sister the dainty hogminny Florence (Jamie Ann Romero), the malapropos malaprop inclined Butler (Scott Cote), and the true stars of the show, the techies (Angela Grovey and Brandon J. Ellis).

Now as the actual title of this show hints at, things do not go smoothly. Lines are forgotten, doors get stuck, cues are missed, they lose the dog, things fall down, props are missing, big things fall down, stuff gets broken, bigger big things fall down, on actors, actors get broken….

You get the idea; essentially, what you have on stage is an overwrought demolition derby of goofiness. Gags hurl off the stage and out at the audience like a stampede of rabid neuff balls.

The show is a continuous assault of nonsensical gollaring non sequitur on the collective funny bone of the L.A. theatre-going public.

Is it for everybody? I wouldn’t say that. Comedy should go against the world as we know it, humor needs to be a U-turn in reality and it should be unexpected.

A Buddhist walks up to a hotdog stand and says, “Make me one with everything.”

My dog ate all the Scrabble tiles.
Now he keeps leaving little messages around the house.

This is my step ladder. I never knew my real ladder.

Dyslexic man walks into a bra.


The play never established a reality for me that I could then delight in going to hell in a hand basket. Nor for me was there any surprise to the show.   Monty Python is funny to me because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

I’m afraid I just sat there.

In the meantime, my wife and about 89% of the rest of the audience were rolling about on the Ahmanson’s floor howling like a pack of amused Monkeyface pricklebacks. (1)

And The Play That Goes Wrong has currently been translated into 20 others languages for productions in China, Poland, Spain, Greece, Israel, Iceland, Brazil, Belgium, Uruguay, Turkey, Hong Kong, Slovenia, Croatia, and elsewhere.

As the ancient sages advised,

Non plaudit. Modo pecuniam jacite.

So, pay no attention to me.

Enjoy the show.


♦    ♦    ♦


(1) They’re a fish. They don’t actually howl.

By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
Tour Directed by Matt DiCarlo


The Ahmanson Theatre 

located at

The Music Center,
135 N. Grand Avenue
Downtown Los Angeles, 90012


Jul 9 – Aug 11, 2019

Tickets  are available by calling (213) 972-4400,

online at


Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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