I’ve worked behind the scenes in theater for over twenty years, and I’ve seen my share of disasters. Have people fallen off second-story sets and needed to be replaced by an unwilling stagehand? Yes. Have sets literally fallen apart around the performers, who valiantly push through the trauma as though it isn’t happening? Yes. Do things catch on fire? Yes. Are the stagehands sometimes a little too “visible”? Yes. It’s all part of the live theater experience, which makes The Play That Goes Wrong, produced by the SBCC Theatre Group and directed by Saundra McClain, hit very close to home for us theater people (in the funniest way possible).
It’s a riot for non-theater folks as well, especially if you love solid, creative physical comedy. Actors like Justin Davanzo and Matthew Tavianini, who play Thomas Colleymore and Inspector Carter, respectively, are excellent physical actors and comedians who trip and spit and blunder their way through this calamity of a play within a play. So rarely do stagehands get characterized, since they should be the invisible wraiths of a production — in this case, every stagehands-on-stage scene provides glorious moments of awkward delight.
The choreography of the show is impressive — for the gags to work, performers need to be in very specific places on the stage. The Play That Goes Wrong unravels seamlessly, spectacularly, leaving no floorboard untrampled. There’s a glimmer of a story — more a situation to contend with than true narrative: there’s been a murder at Haversham manor, and the killer could be any one of the characters (gasp!). It’s simple scaffolding for the real purpose of the show: actors fumbling through the catastrophe of a theater production that has gone well off the rails with hilarious results. It’s two hours of silly fun with a great cast and excellent direction.
The Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College presents The Play That Goes Wrong at the Garvin Theatre though October 29. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit theatregroupsbcc.com or call (805) 965-5935.