Farce is a matter of taste.
This was perfectly illustrated by the reactions to current production of The Play That Goes Wrong that is now playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.
First there were the enthusiastic laughers. They came primed to enjoy a farce and they laughed at the exaggerated acting and every mishap, pratfall, near-miss and outlandish incident even if it was repeated a dozen times. They gave the performance a standing ovation.
There were the less enthusiastic laughers who found many routines genuinely but showed restraint on other occasions and were less keen on quite a few of the repetitive routines.
There was a small contingent who smiled a few times and maybe threw in a few laughs but their overall assessment was lukewarm, even negative. I did notice a few people leave during intermission but they may have done it for reasons other than giving the production unmitigated thumbs down.
The plot? The Cornley University Drama Society is staging a whodunit called The Murder at Haversham Manor. The Cornley is not so much accident-prone as disaster- predisposed to and they suffer every stage calamity that the three authors could devise. And one must credit Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields with having very fertile imaginations.
How disaster prone is The Cornley? Well, casting issues have forced them to produce the following famous plays: Two Sisters, Snow White and the Seven Tall Men, Cat and other gems like that.
The Murder at Haversham Manor is a play within a play-within-a-play and the title The Play that Goes Wrong may be considered an accurate description, a promise and for some perhaps a warning. As I said, it is all a matter of taste.
Charles Haversham (Yaegel T. Welch) of the manor is murdered or is found murdered when the “play” starts after we witness parts of the set collapsing preceded by havoc in starting the performance at all. Do we see Charles dead in the opening scene and see no more of him after that? Well may you ask and no I will not tell you.
A murder investigation needs an Inspector and we have the classic bumbler played by Evan Alexander Smith. Perkins (Scott Cote) is the indispensable butler Perkins. Charles has a brother, Cecil (Ned Noyes) who is having an affair with his fiancée Florence (Jamie Ann Romero) who has a brother Thomas (Peyton Crim). And there is Arthur the Gardener played by Noyes. There is also the Stage Manager Annie (Angela Grovey) and the Lighting and Sound Operator played by Brandon J. Ellis.
The roles in The Murder are played by members of The Cornley who are named as such in the cast list for that play and then given credit as such in the cast list for The Play. Don’t worry about that, you won’t pay any attention to it.
The set collapses almost continually, scotch is given to drink numerous times and it is sprayed forcefully out of the moth of the drinker every time. People are struck in the face or on the head by doors, windows and falling pieces of whatever is around. There is verbal humour, at times mercilessly repetitive. All of these actions are dome incessantly and with accelerating speed and increasing physicality.
Matt DiCarlo directs the tour company production based on the original direction by Mark Bell. Whatever your laughter quotient, you have to give very high marks for DiCarlo/Bell for directing and to Nigel Hook) for design for putting the show together and the cast for break-neck performances.
As for the rest, it is a matter of taste.
The Play That Goes Wrong by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields opened on January 9, 2019 and will play until February 10 2019 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ont. M5B 1V8.
Farce is a matter of taste.