NKU’s 'The Play That Goes Wrong' runs through April 20 at the Carnegie. This is an extremely funny, well executed production by cast and crew.

By Doug Iden

How can a play go wrong? Just about every way imaginable as Northern Kentucky University presents the farcical The Play That Goes Wrong, performed at The Carnegie through April 20, due to the renovations of the NKU campus theater.


Originated by a British comedic theater group in 2012, The Play is a play within a play (note the play on words) about a theatrical company showing “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” a pastiche on Agatha Christie’s decades running play ‘The Mousetrap.‘  The show opens with various technicians making last minute preparations by repairing a broken mantlepiece while constantly replacing pictures that have fallen off the walls.  Then, the play’s Director (Bodie Moore who also plays Inspector Carter) introduces the “Murder” play to the audience. 

Perkins (the aloof and haughty Butler portrayed by Phoenix Bills) and Thomas Colleymoore (Luc Vandenbroek) discover the dead body of Charles Haversham (Jathan Briscoe). Flummoxed, they cannot decide if this is suicide, natural death, or a murder.  They call in Inspector Carter to solve the case.

Haversham’s fiancée Florence Colleymoore (Hailey Watson) enters and tries to resuscitate Charles by throwing herself on him, to no avail although the “body” continues to react to the ministrations.  Next, Charles’s brother Cecil (Reagan Wildoner) who is having an affair with Florence enters the mayhem.  Florence is inadvertently knocked unconscious by a slamming door and is replaced by Stage Manager and understudy Annie Twilloil (Elliet Malatesta) who has put Florence’s stage dress over her “backstage” outfit.  The “real” Florence now wants to continue her role but Annie will not relinquish the part and the two continue to fight throughout the evening.  At this point, the “plot” disintegrates into hilarious bedlam and chaos.

Cast of NKU's The Play That Goes Wrong

NKU’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is a Farce

Physical farce demands impeccable timing to work and even the slightest misstep can sour the result.  The cast and Director Ken Jones have succeeded admirably as the insanity ensues on stage.  The farcical nature includes overexaggerated gestures (played deliciously by Watson as Florence) and grandiose prancing by Wildoner (as Cecil) while breaking the fourth wall and playing to the appreciative audience of primarily NKU students, faculty, and alums.  In the second act, Wildoner (as Arthur the gardener) tries to control an imaginary dog pulling him relentlessly on a leash.  Physical, slapstick humor abounds including pratfalls, fights, the two

Florence’s constantly jumping out a window and doors knocking people out.  Another ongoing gag is the repeated appearance of the backstage people trying to give the actors props, replace things that fall off the wall, allow for the malfunctioning fireplace, etc.  I could spend the next three pages listing some of the ongoing chaos but that would spoil many of the unexpected jokes (and not make the editor happy either). 


The set (designed by Eric Barker assisted by Aspen Knight) is a major character in the show, along with the props (Barker and Michael Hatton). Designed as a 1920’s English manor house, the set shows the living room complete with fireplace, wall pictures, a grandfather clock, a large window, a bookcase (that swivels) and a small balcony.  All of these elements and many props including swords, a notebook, flower pots etc. all have roles in the ongoing absurdity.  There is serious engineering here as well because many elements end up on the floor with perfect timing. 

Costumes by Daryl Harris satirize the upper crust dress including a butler’s uniform, various suits, Florence’s sexy red dress and the backstage dress.  Lighting by Jo Sanburg spoofs dramatic events and adds to the climactic disaster at the end.


This is an extremely funny, well executed play by both the entire cast and the production crews supporting the action.  The over-the-top nature of the play balloons into the absurdist antics onstage.  The entertainment starts with a manic satirical crescendo and explodes into boisterous bedlam like a fireworks display.  The audience will constantly laugh throughout.

Tickets to NKU’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ at the Carnegie

So, grab your funny bone and your dog-eared copy of Agatha Christie and gallop to The Carnegie to see NKU’s The Play That Goes Wrong running through April 20. CLICK HERE for the Carnegie Box Office.

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