The Play That Goes Wrong

Pit & Balcony’s World Premier is a Seriously Hilarious Hybrid Celebrating the Essence of Live Theatre

    Additional Reporting by
    icon Feb 22, 2024
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The Play That Goes Wrong is an Olivier Award-winning 2012 comedy by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company that is a hilarious hybrid of Monty Python & Sherlock Holmes, which partly works so well because at its core it is a celebration of the essence of Live Theatre, which as with any complex and tightly orchestrated endeavor has many moving parts in motion that must all come together.

While today the world may seem as if it is falling apart, there exists a perverse comfort in watching things go smash in a safely contained environment, proven by the somewhat brutal allure of people attending monster truck jams, or watching videos of toddlers falling off tricycles, which is also the case with The Play That Goes Wrong. Set for its regional premier at Pit & Balcony Community Theatre the weekends of March 15-17 & 24th, this production is probably as close to a demolition derby as we are likely to see within the context of a theatrical stage.

The narrative of this production centers around the Comley Polytechnic Drama Society, a respected theatrical company, who after receiving a substantial bequest are putting on a performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor - a 1920s murder mystery play, similar to The Mousetrap, which has the right number of parts for the members.

Before the play starts the audience gets a hint at the mayhem that is about to ensue as they witness the backstage staff doing last-minute adjustments to the set, such as attempting to mend a broken mantelpiece while finding a dog that has run off. During the performance itself - which is a play within a play - a plethora of disasters befalls the cast, including doors sticking, props falling from walls, and floors collapsing, along with cast members misplacing props, forgetting lines, and missing cues. 

When it comes to coordinating the complicated milieu between blending an un-expected comedy of errors with a serious theatrical production of a murder mystery, Director Dominique Eisengruber certainly has her work cut out for her.

A 2017 graduate from University of Michigan/Flint, with her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts & Theatre and several productions under her belt, The Play that Goes Wrong marks her directorial debut at Pit & Balcony.

“Not only is this a really big comedy that audiences will find funny, but audiences who are specifically artists and theatrical people will especially relate to very well, because I think we’ve all been part of a production where at least one of the things that goes wrong in this particular play has happened to them,” she reflects. “Whether it’s a case of forgotten lines, or set pieces falling apart, or props not in the right place, while many things happen that a general audience will find funny, any member of the audience who’s’ been in a similar position artistically will have empathy for the actors and also think is funny.”

Not to be confused with slapstick, Dominique views this play more like a farce.   “Something really important that we talk about in rehearsal a lot is how every cast member is playing the character of an alternative cast member of the Comely Drama Society and they are serious about their work and not trying to mess up.  All they are trying to do is a good job, so the comedy rises from a place where you’re rooting for them to do their best and is blended with a mixture of hope they’ll be able to recover from these mishaps, but also contains elements of melodrama and intense moments in rehearsal.” 

“The cast needs to approach their roles from the fact these actors are real people that care about putting their heart and soul into their show, so when things so wrong it’s a seamless blend of comedy happening from the tragedy over things going wrong.”

When asked the most challenging component involved with this production, Dominque responds with an intriguing perspective.  “One of the actors in this play the cast has not been fully introduced to yet is the set itself,” she reflects. “I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but given various pieces that fall apart around them, the actors have to partner with the set and look at the set as an entirely different character. 

“Our set technician is working on having all these elements in place in a couple of weeks, so right now we’re blocked the show and are having fun trying different weird stuff with the characters, so when we fold in the set in a couple weeks it will be less of a shock for the actors on stage when they partner with this particular character”

“Because all the characters are so excited about putting on the debut of this serious mystery called The Murder at Haversham Manor, at the end of the play there is this really great twist and some very good lines in it,” she continues. “The drama society in this play worked hard to make this a really great show, so the murder mystery aspect is still there, and adding to the complexity of this is that the drama society is doing the best they can to make this play shine with a low budget. It’s simultaneously hilarious but a tragedy to see so many things go wrong.”

With a cast consisting of Meghan Campbell,  Matthew Cremeans,  Kale Schafer,  Brady Katshor,  Jordan Climie, Matt Kehoe,  Justin Russell,  and Keara Asel; and a stage crew consisting of Matthew Howe, Savannah Senyk, Forest Faye, and Zoë Mckoy, Dominque points out that because the stage crew are handling all the backstage magic tricks, they truly are part of the cast.

“A lot of people showed up to audition for these roles and it was really hard to select the cast, but we’re lucky to be able to put together this awesome cast that fits together so well,” she reflects. “ Everybody is positive and you need to have a sense of trust while all this stuff is happening, so I feel fortunate we were able to pick a group of people that work so well together, because this is very much an ensemble production. All the actors have to be very active with each other on and off stage, so it’s a really big cohesive project that takes all twelve people to make this big thing go smoothly without a hitch.”

“And ironically, that is the Big Hitch,” smiles Dominique. “Because in order for everything to go wrong safely in this play, it has to go down absolutely correctly.”

“I’ll say this,” she concludes, “I read this show a lot of times preparing for it before auditions started, and I couldn’t get through a single page without laughing, and that’s just with me reading it!   It’s a big comedy, very funny, and highly entertaining. With all the things going on in the world these days, It’s a great place for audiences to go for a couple of hours for some much needed comic relief."

The regional premiere of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ will run from March 15-17 & 22-24 at Pit & Balcony Community Theatre. Performance times are 7:30 PM Fridays & Saturdays, with 3:00 PM Sunday matinees.  Ticket are only $20.00 and available online at or by phoning 989.754.6587. 

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