“The Play That Goes Wrong”: a review

Lights border around a mirror that performers use to get ready backstage.

Kaitlyn Bergman, Writer

So Wrong it’s Right: A review of UM-Flint’s first play of the fall 2022-23 season


From face masks to spit takes, UM-Flint theater put on a spectacular rendition of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” directed by William Irwin. This performance went beyond expectations; it was a comedy, mystery and magic show wrapped in one! I had prepared myself, much like the title suggested, for things to go quite wrong. Somehow, even more went awry than could be expected.


The UM-Flint Theater & Dance Facebook page posted a sneak preview trailer. Seeing the hilarious slapstick comedy drew my attention in, yet as I read the comments under each post advertising the play, I couldn’t help but notice how much those that had seen it seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. After attending myself, I can surely see why. Not only were there many laughs from myself and the rest of the audience, but the story had shocking twists and turns that kept interest piqued during the 60-minute run time.


The production begins with set mishaps, showing that something about this play is a little off. By the time Charles Haversham (Layna Bollwitt) collapses dead on the chaise, tensions in the audience are high and curiosity is piqued. Charles has been murdered! This is quite the tragedy, particularly as it’s revealed that this is Charles and Florence’s engagement party. More mishaps ensue, with butler Perkins and Thomas Colleymoore finding the door to enter the room locked. Only, this wasn’t how things were supposed to go. The two find themselves having to sneak around the wall to enter the stage, playing it off quite subtly.


Each laugh is tied together by an intriguing murder mystery. Charles’ brother Cecil Haversham (Trevor Heydt) is revealed to be having an affair with Florence. Could they have murdered Charles? Inspector Carter (Leonardo Clark) is determined to find out!


The list of mishaps seems never-ending, from Florence Colleymoore (Ava Ward) being knocked out by a fellow castmate to butler Perkins forgetting lines, and even missing set pieces that result in beverages being swapped with cleaning fluid. It has never been quite as funny to get sprayed with spit- cast members are forced to ingest the cleaner in an attempt to stay on script, yuck!


The theater crew comes to the rescue as things continue to go wrong, with Annie (Bethann Sampson) standing in as the missing mantle piece. As if this wasn’t demanding enough, she has to step in for Florence after Ava Ward is unconscious. Though, Annie doesn’t seem to mind. The two actresses get into a battle, both fighting for stardom. In the end, quite a shocking twist is revealed, leaving the audience gasping in surprise. 


The play, set in the year 1920 at Haversham Manor, will transport you back in time as even when characters experience adversity (and breaking of the fourth wall), they always seem true to who they’re playing. Even as two actresses fight over the role of Florence, both stay in character and leave those watching in stitches. The set is masterfully made and managed with its many objects each serving a different purpose than could be expected. Much like the gorgeous costumes of each cast member, even those playing crew, which are all beautifully designed and immerse you into each of their innermost characters. 


Overall, this play proved to me that it takes a high level of production to correctly have so many things go wrong. From high-quality bad acting to a million emergencies, UM-Flint theater showcased a high level of talent in their production of “The Play That Goes Wrong.”