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Jerry Cutler On Theater—‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ Doesn’t Do That And Becomes A Tribute To Perfect Timing

From left, Scott Cote, Yaegel T. Welch, Peyton Crim, Jamie Ann Romero and Ned Noyes in the national tour of "The Play That Goes Wrong." Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
From left, Evan Alexander Smith and Brandon J. Ellis in the national tour of "The Play That Goes Wrong." Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Posted Friday, July 19, 2019 - 4:51 pm

My one and only appearance in a legit play was many years ago in Denver when Fiddler On the Roof was performed by professional and amateur actors to offset the cost of a full-equity play.

The performance was presented as originally written by Sholom Aleichem, without music.

At the time, I was youth activities director at a temple and everyone thought I would be good as Motl, one of the suitors for Tevya’s daughter. I accepted gladly as I felt the time had come for me to break out and finally be discovered. We rehearsed for weeks with me acing my part at each run-through.

On the night of the performance, the actor who portrayed Tevya was terrific. Finally, the time came for me to make my appearance. Without flinching and full of confidence I walked on stage and was greeted with applause from the audience. I turned to acknowledge my entrance, saw a packed theatre, and started to tremble. I froze. All those people were staring at me, as was Tevya who asked again as I didn’t answer the first time, “Who are you and where do you come from?” My answer, had I the ability to utter a sound or syllable would have been, “I’m Motl Kamzoil from Anatevka.”

I looked at him like a deer caught in headlights. Tevye looked at me pitifully, and said: “You must be Motl Kamzoil from Anatevka.” All I could do was nod my head in affirmation.

The good news is, the audience thought that, throughout the play I was a mute. The bad news is that my dream of being discovered never came to fruition

All of the above passed through my mind as I saw the opening of The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre.

The name of the play is a foreshadow of things to come as everything does go wrong during its performance. And, when it does, laughter rebounds from the hallowed walls of The Ahmanson. The actors collect themselves for a moment, continue, and then something else goes awry. More laughter. 

Before the play begins the stagehands busy themselves with last-minute touches. However, everything they touch either breaks, falls off the walls, or is missing. Nothing goes right except for the things that continue to go wrong even when the play opens. That’s when the real fun begins.

I would have loved to be in the room when Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields conceived of a play that goes terribly wrong and started to write each hilarious mishap that can possibly happen when it does. The actors appearing in The Murder At Haversham Manor absolutely kill this play within a play much to the delight of the audience and each other.

At times, there seems to be a disconnect between the cast and it’s everyone for him or herself. However, it isn’t that way at all and falls into place with the craziness jelling into a fun-filled evening.

Director Matt DiCarlo’s direction is impeccable and the cast is solid.

The Play That Goes Wrong doesn’t, and is an homage to perfect timing.

Go and enjoy, soon. It closes Aug. 11.

Jerry Cutler is rabbi at Creative Arts Temple.

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