by Michael Buzzelli
Chris Bean/ Inspector Carter welcomes us to the Cornley Drama Society’s production of “Murder at Haversham Manor,” but not really. It’s Colin Burns up there on stage acting the part of Chris Bean acting the part of Inspector Carter in “The Play That Goes Wrong.”
The plot is simple. Thomas Haversham (Fred Coleman) is murdered. Haversham’s brother, Cecil (John Feightner), his best friend, Thomas (Stephen Toth), fiancé Florence (Erika Krenn), and the Haversham maid, Perkins (Liz Schaming) are among Inspector Carter’s top suspects.
The ‘actors’ are struggling up there as set pieces fall apart, lines of dialogue are delivered out of order (or in some cases repetitive loops) and props aren’t where they’re supposed to be.
At one point, a miscued entrance smacks Sandra the-actor-playing-Florence (Krenn) so hard she’s knocked unconscious and replaced by Annie (Chelsea Conway), who dons the red dress, a copy of the script and jumps on stage.
Playwrights Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields cook up every possible mishap that could ever possibly go wrong in a show.
Steven Gallagher choreographs the cast with precision of a German clockmaker. Every movement is a perfect ballet of mishaps, choreographed klutziness.
The show is expertly cast, and there were strong performances from every member, including “the crew,” Katheryn Hess, Randi Ippolito, Emma Paulini and David Lu!!
Krenn is a charismatic Sandra/Florence. She has perfect comic timing and the best British accent of the bunch.
When Sandra (Krenn) goes down, knocked out by the swinging door, Toth’s face freezes in mid-gasp. It is one of the most hilarious moments in a show filled with hilarious moments.
It is no secret to the Pittsburgh comedy scene that Feightner is a comedic genius. Every herky-jerky movement, every facial expression is pure, undiluted hilarity. He does it in such a natural way that its masterful (even the dedication he wrote in the program was funny).
Jim Froehlich is delightful as Trevor, the Conley Drama Society’s put-upon lighting and sound operator who must jump in as Florence Haversham when both Sandra and Annie are out of commission.
There were some issues with the venue.
Over the years, the production company has gone through numerous names and various venues. The Allegheny RiverTrail Park is not an ideal space. It’s cramped and this show is never going to get the size audience it deserves. The seats were crammed together.
The front row was inches from the stage. The first row should have been declared a splash zone. I was spat upon twice. I always assumed “spitting distance” was a colorful aphorism.
Even though I was in front of the show, I had some difficulty hearing because I was seated next to a family of wild hyenas who laughed so boisterously and loudly that I couldn’t hear the plot. At one point the boy fell on the floor and rolled around. I also thought ROTFOL was also just an expression.
Then, I realized, the plot was secondary. The audience’s enjoyment should be the most important thing. In that case, everything about “The Play That Goes Wrong” was right.
“The Play that Goes Wrong” runs through November 19 at the Riverfront Theatre Company, Allegheny RiverTrail Park, 285 River Avenue, Aspinwall, PA 15215. For more information, click here.