The Pandemonium’s The Thing

The Pandemonium’s The Thing

This play is so wrong, it’s right


It’s part of the joy, the adrenaline and the magic of live theater: Something can go wrong at any moment. The troupe of people, on and behind the stage, have to be mindful of every single element throughout an entire performance. They also have to hope they can recover smoothly enough that audiences won’t notice the inevitable dropped line or missed blocking here or there.

Most cast and crew members are trained well enough, or good enough at improvising, that they are able to adjust in the moment when things do go a bit astray. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Cornley University Drama Society.

Everything that can go wrong does go wrong in “The Play That Goes Wrong,” and the show within a show devolves into chaos for a night of theater the Associated Press calls “madcap mania with Monty Python in its blood.”

“It’s about this amateur acting company putting on a very ambitious murder mystery” play, explains actor Michael Thatcher. “And in this show, when those things happen, these characters always, without fail, choose the hardest option to fix it and then they stick to that 100 percent.”

Thatcher’s character, Robert Grove, thinks of himself as the best actor in the company, Thatcher explains. Robert considers himself among the greats — up there with Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier. But his overzealous acting often ends up being a catalyst for some of the biggest things going wrong. Guests can get a sense of Robert’s over-inflated confidence in his ability when they find his special ad in the program for the show.

In fact, “The Play That Goes Wrong” breaks the fourth wall and bleeds out into the house in several ways beyond Robert’s house ad. Guests who arrive early may begin seeing, and hearing, grumblings of things already starting to go wrong a quarter hour before the show even begins, Thatcher hints.

“The fun thing for me about this show is that people come in not knowing how it’s going to end. Most people who come to see Shakespeare know Shakespeare pretty well and know how things are going to go,” says Thatcher, whose resume is padded with The Bard’s work, as well as a mix of classical and newer musicals and newer plays. “A lot of Shakespeare fans will compare this new production of ‘Henry V’ to the ‘Henry V’ they saw 20 years ago that was so good. And with this, there’s none of that, which is fantastic.”

Surprisingly, Thatcher’s Shakespeare experience actually ended up providing an effective base to pull from for “The Play That Goes Wrong.”

“Shakespeare is about these larger-than-life moments and that’s what this show is, too,” he reveals. “And while ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is a comedy, for the actors inside of it, for Robert Grove, it is a tragedy.

“They have rehearsed this thing thinking it’s going to be one of the greatest shows ever, and things keep happening that are derailing their performance. So we don’t play it as funny,” Thatcher continues. “No, it’s a tragedy that these actors are going through, and that’s where the truth of it comes out, which leads to the comedy of watching these poor amateur actors just deal with the worst possible situations on stage.”

Thatcher comes to the Walton Arts Center Nov. 12-17 on the second leg of the first national tour. He made his Broadway debut last year with the show before seeing it taken to the road as he joined the first portion of the tour.

“The Broadway house had, I believe, just under 1,000 seats in it,” Thatcher recalls. “So making that many people laugh was incredible. And then we go out on the road, and we’re playing houses that are 2,000, 3,000 seats, and to have that many people laughing at just the raise of an eyebrow or a head turn or a door knob is truly, truly amazing — and it’s something that I am just always going to cherish.”



‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Nov. 15; 2 & 8 p.m. Nov. 16; 2 p.m. Nov. 17

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $32-$69

INFO — 443-5600,

Categories: In The News