Review: 'The Play That Goes Wrong' Gets Everything Right
Written by Marin Heinritz. Photo: "The Play That Goes Wrong" at Barn Theatre


The Barn Theatre in Augusta is rightfully celebrated for their terrific productions of farces. 

The silliness and high hilarity that come from utterly absurd situations sprung to life with impeccable timing and brilliant ensemble work are a trademark for this long-standing summer stock theatre. And though everything must go wrong in “The Play That Goes Wrong”, it is so very right as their 78th season opener.

Written by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, and Jonathan Sayer, the clever story of this Tony- and Olivier-Award winning comedy that opened in London in 2012 and had run on Broadway as well as a national tour, revolves around the Cornley University Drama Society, an amateur theatre troupe’s ill-fated attempt to put on the 1920s whodunit “The Murder at Haversham Manor”, the plot of which is not unlike Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”.

From even before its start, this play within a play is a disaster. Light and sound man Trevor (Charlie King) is looking for a missing dog (and Duran Duran cd) and stage manager Annie (Katie Snowday) must recruit an audience member to help hold up the set. When the director (Eric Petersen, also director of this fine Barn production who in addition plays the role of inspector in the murder mystery) makes his curtain speech, with a mix of pride and self abasement he acknowledges mishaps in the box office as well as the budget limitations of the company’s previous productions, including “Two Sisters”, “The Lion and the Wardrobe”, “James, Where is Your Peach”, and “Cat”.

And with curtain up, the madness continues at a fever pitch, starting with a corpse (Liam Rogan) that cannot stay still, and the introduction of the unruly murder suspects: his brother (Luke Ragotzy), his vampy fiancée (Melissa Cotton Hunter), her brother (Patrick Hunter), and the butler (John Jay Espino). Overblown gestures, bows taken mid-scene, missed exits and entrances, lines delivered out of order, actors knocked out cold, black eyes and legs akimbo, crew members taking on roles, misplaced props, falling props and set pieces, spit takes, a very silly duel, and slapstick of every ilk are but a smattering of ways things fall apart most amusingly.

The Barn actors pull it all off with aplomb, offering a masterclass in comedy that is relentlessly laugh-out-loud funny. This ensemble is a well-oiled machine, fully committed, and the result is two hours of incomparably good fun.

All of which is made possible and enhanced by the technical elements that allow everything to go so deliciously wrong, from Steven Lee Burright’s appropriately jerry rigged set and props to David Knewtson’s melodramatic lighting to Troy Benton’s terrific sound design. Alex Szczotka’s costumes and Garrylee McCormick’s wigs help create character and add to the comedy beautifully.

The artistry of terrific comedy may often go under appreciated because we’re simply laughing too damn hard to notice. At The Barn, they make farce look easy, but it is, indeed, elevated to the highest of arts here. To pull off a play that goes so terribly wrong within a play that is so right in all the ways it wrings hilarity out of every moment is nothing short of genius.

The Play That Goes Wrong
Barn Theatre 
13351 M-96, Augusta
June 4-9