“The Play That Goes Wrong” Goes Hilariously Right As The Rep’s MainStage Season Comes To A Close


Michael Keyloun and John Rapson try to get a knocked out Ruth Pferdehirt through a stage window in “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Anyone who has done theatre either as a professional or amateur knows there are some nights where nothing goes right. Perhaps an exit door that won’t open or a major prop that’s missing or, in the case of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” everything is a disaster. Since you’re expecting that from a play with that title, the audience is not only entertained, they are treated to non-stop, out loud laughs that just won’t stop. This is the closing show of the season on the MainStage at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

Wrong-Charels on chaise

Dennis Tyde and John Rapson attemt to roll the “corpse”, Benjamin Curns, onto a stretcher in the Rep production of “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Set at a small university drama society production, president of that society as well as director and star of the Agatha Christie style mystery, “The Murder At Haversham Manor,” Chris Bean, has to explain to the audience before the show starts that a few problems may ensue. Those problems are evident even before the speech and the play as things start going wrong as the tech crew come out about ten minutes before curtain to remedy some of those problems. Then all hell breaks loose.


Michael Keyloun appears a bit disturbed at the reaction of Ka-Ling Cheung as the stage manager filling for the leading lady in “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Michael Keyloun leads the way as Mr. Bean and, in the play, Inspector Carter. His exasperation combined with many problems attributed to him as well, creates chaos that  never really gets under control. Benjamin Curns as Charles Haversham dies in the opening scene but, as to paraphrase Sally Bowles line in “Cabaret,” he’s the liveliest corpse you’ve ever seen. Among other things, the other actors bump him as he lies “calmly” on a chaise and he just has trouble staying in character and dead. He also makes several unexpected entrances with a blunderbuss throughout the play which all becomes clear in the second act.


Matthew McGloin and Benjamin Curns in the aftermath of their sword fight in the Rep’s production of “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

To add to the hilarity, Charles’ brother Cecil, Matthew McGloin appears to think he’s in a musical as he  bounces around the stage emphasizing every speech with leg kicks and overreaching hand motions. Of course it doesn’t help that he’s dressed like a 20’s preppie tennis player. Later in the play he appears as Arthur the Gardener and makes no pretense to be anything but the actor playing both roles, even to the point of trying to stick his fake sideburns (which have fallen off) as a mustache on Charles’ intended, Florence Colleymoore. Played with perfect comic timing, Ruth Pferdehirt plays Colleymoore who may have some nefarious hand in Charles’ death- definitely a suspect.


The very much alive “corpse” is pulled onto the second level with much consternation in “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Rep. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

John Rapson is Thomas Colleymoore, Florence’s brother while Evan Zes plays the loyal family friend and, rounding out the cast are the behind the scenes players who get into the action on stage when Florence gets knocked out- Ryan George as the sound and light technician and Ka-Ling Cheung as the stage manager. Several plants in the audience also help things along from a helper in the pre-opening to folks who start conversations or urge on the action.


Ruth Pferdehirt jumps into the arms of Matthew McGloin during the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis production of “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Director Melissa Rain Anderson has brought slapstick to new heights in providing the main laughs for the evening with falls through windows, knocking down posts so a cantilevered second floor section can trap the “actors” unawares and, as mentioned, even knocking out one of the actresses which leads to an absolutely spectacular scene as actors and stagehands try to get her offstage through a window flat. Timing is everything and it all works beautifully the “The Play That Goes Wrong.”

The wonderful Peter and Margery Spack have provided a set that often goes wrong as well while Lauren T. Roark provides the appropriate costume design and Kirk Bookman’s lights enhance the action. Rusty Wandall provides the sound design and a special bow to the backstage crew that handles the complex machinations to perfection.

Wrong-cheungas Flo

Michael Keyloun, Ka-Ling Cheung and Evan Zes in just one of the hilarious moments in “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Comparisons to “Noises Off” are inevitable but whereas that play featured a lot of things that go wrong, it focuses on the relationships of the actors while “The Play That Goes Wrong” is straight out slapstick and silliness. Both are stellar examples of life behind the footlights but for now, get to the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis before this hilarity ends. “The Play That Goes Wrong” runs through April 7th. Give them a call at 314-968-4925 for tickets or more information.

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Just a quick word of explanation. Stage Door St. Louis has been dark for almost six months due to my wife’s illness. She is getting stronger every day and was able to attend “The Play That Goes Wrong” with me. Not sure of how my schedule will continue as it’s a day-to-day journey as her caregiver. But I plan to attend the Circle Awards at the end of the month and hopefully get back on a fairly regular schedule of enjoying St. Louis theatre this year. Thanks to everyone for understanding…Steve Allen

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