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Jack Grigoli, Mariko Iwassa, Weston Pytel, Liv Cunha, Shaun O’Keefe, Elizabeth Pietrangelo and Scott Renzoni in a scene from “The Play That Goes Wrong,” running at The Majestic Theater in West Springfield through June 2.
Photo credit: Kait Rankins

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Incompetence has never been so funny. “The Play That Goes Wrong” at The Majestic Theater is a tour de force of physical comedy couched in a murder mystery play-within-a-play.

The farce, written by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer, invites the audience to watch as the fictional Cornley University Drama Society puts on a production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” Things begin to go awry before the play even begins. As audience members take their seats, the actors playing stage crew members literally and figuratively set the stage for the show, fighting with lighting, sets and props that will not stay put.

By the time the self-important “director” Chris, played by Jack Grigoli, takes the stage to welcome the audience, the crowd knows they are in for a wonderful display of ineptitude, and the Cornley University Drama Society delivers with forgotten lines, missed cues, unconscious actors and a murder victim who has trouble staying dead.

As a confession, I was not wholly new to “The Play That Goes Wrong.” My first time seeing it was on the BBC. The cast that performed that version of the play went on to star in “The Goes Wrong Show,” in which the Cornley University Drama Society attempts various productions with similar hijinks. Going into the show at The Majestic Theater, I did not know if I would be disappointed or bored because I had essentially seen the play before. I need not have worried.

The Majestic Theater’s version of the show was not only longer, with extended scenes and gags I had not seen before, but the acting of the cast breathed a fantastic fresh breath into the material. Mariko Iwassa steals many of the scenes. Her experience working as a clown shines through in her exaggerated expressions and comedic physical dexterity.

Spencer Cohen’s technical design is impressive as several parts of the set are made to be dislodged at specific times, giving the illusion that the set is falling apart when, in truth, it is all precisely scripted.

Although this paragraph is a bit of a spoiler, I will say that the most remarkable part of the set is a second floor that unexpectedly drops on one side. I cannot say enough about the performances of Grigoli, Shaun O’Keefe and Weston Pytel, who all speak dialog, brace themselves and prevent furniture from sliding off the tilted stage.

The tongue-in-cheek incompetence carries over into the playbill, with the photo of Producing Director Danny Eaton cut off below the nose and those of Associate Producing Director Sue Dziura and Costume Designer Dawn McKay displayed upside down.

This year marks The Majestic Theater’s sixth season. The theater runs five productions per season, as well as two children’s theater productions over the summer.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” runs at The Majestic Theater, 131 Elm Street, West Springfield, through June 2. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 413-747-7797. Visit majestictheater.com for more information.

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