Alas, sometimes a title gives away the plot. Maybe it is foolish to expect more from a play written by a committee, namely Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields. It is summer and once again theatrical producers are certain audiences crave humor.
Here is the setup. The Cornley University Drama Society has decided to produce a mystery set in the 1920’s, “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” Admittedly their resources are thin. Lacking actors and funds, in the past they have produced classics such as “James and the Peach,” and “the Lion and the Witch,” or was it “The Lion and the Wardrobe?” It really does not matter.
Spoiler alert: the set starts falling apart while the audience is still being seated; the alleged corpse is clearly not dead; the actors get lost in their lines with one actor following along several lines off of the other actor. So it goes for over two hours, error compounding error. Set decimation follows set decimation. A laugh is written into every line.
To be honest, an 8 or 9 year-old would probably be thrilled by the constant slapstick flow. Much of the opening night audience roared reliably over such confusions as the portrait of dog being identified as the father of the corpse. “The Play That Goes Wrong” garnered an Olivier for Best New Comedy and played for two years in London. On Broadway the disassembling set received a Tony. It did fall apart well.
Oh for the sophistication of a Noel Coward or Cole Porter. Obviously there is an audience for silliness on stage. Just be warned that is what you will see currently at the Ahmanson. Put aside any notion of wit.