Laugh at others’ misfortune with ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ in Breckenridge
Breckenridge Backstage Theatre production runs through Aug. 7
Live theater is a precious medium. A hodgepodge of technical and creative aspects have to come together just right to create an experience that entertains a captive audience in real time. But what if that doesn’t happen?
That’s the concept behind “The Play That Goes Wrong.” A modern farce that’s a play within a play, like “Noises Off,” the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre production aims to make people laugh when a dramatic murder mystery suddenly becomes a comedy.
It is a continuation of Creative Producer Branden Smith’s schedule of laughs set for the year. However, unlike “The Importance of Being Earnest” that started the season, Smith is doing scenic design as guest director Joey Folsom helms the show.
Folsom, having directed “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” in early 2020, is no stranger to Backstage. He’s also appeared locally in “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Great Gatsby.” The Dallas native enjoys coming north to Colorado for the opportunity to escape the heat and collaborate with other thespians.
He thought about being a fireman, a lawyer or joining the Navy like his two brothers, but high school theater had him studying acting and directing at the University of North Texas. The creativity fuels his career forward.
What: ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’
When: Now through Aug. 7
Where: Breckenridge Theater, 121 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge
Cost: Tickets are $15 for children 16 and under, and range from $28 to $36 for adults. Visit BackstageTheatre.org to purchase.
“Even though it is labor intensive, you forget that it’s a job,” Folsom said. “It’s much better than waiting tables and bartending.”
Along with serving and acting in theater, Folsom has done work in front of and behind the camera for film and television. The multihyphenate has been in “The Camera Store” with John Larroquette and guest starred on the “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul.”
Yet the energy of an audience and problem solving with coworkers keeps him coming back to the stage. Since it’s repeatedly done live, he isn’t flying in to a set for a handful of lines where he may lack the context of the finished product. Instead, he said the real, shared moments are a churchlike experience filled with participation. In “The Play That Goes Wrong,” that realness is the star of the production.
“The things that go wrong in this show have to go wrong brand-new for the first every single time or else the humor is not there, and it’s not funny,” Folsom said, adding that the challenge of the effects and timing is why he wanted to direct it.
Smith reached out to Folsom for the play and the timing fortunately worked out. He closed on a show in Texas 24 hours before the first rehearsal of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” and after opening week he’ll be headed back to Dallas to work on “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” for The Classics Theatre Project in Dallas.
Folsom’s favorite parts has been each actor’s little nuances and he recommends people keep a sharp eye during scenes with multiple people on stage. The cast includes Devon Rose, Drew Straub, James Fagan, Harrison Palmer, Lloyd Harvey and Phillip Shinn. Some actors Joining Folsom from the Lone Star State are Madyson Greenwood and Andrew Manning.
Greenwood plays the stage manager, Annie Twilloil. She recently worked with Folsom in Anton Chekhov’s “Sex, Guns and Vodka” and jumped at the chance to audition for “The Play That Goes Wrong.”
“When I found out what show it was, I was on top of it,” Greenwood said. “That has been the top of my bucket list since I saw the show many years ago, and I have been so excited to be doing it.”
Greenwood was not exposed to a lot of theater growing up in a small Alabama town. However, she fell in love with the medium thanks to local community theater, particularly bringing a character to life and hearing the audience’s laughter.
She wants to bring her passion to other underserved communities using her degrees in theater and education.
“If it wasn’t for community theater, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today,” Greenwood said. “I love working in theaters, especially with education to bring kids on stage.”
She’s taught kids the act of stage management — making sure actors have props and that the tech crew has cues on time — and uses bits of that when playing Annie. The character interacts with the audience even before the play officially starts, running around frantically as people are finding their seats.
Her fiance Manning, who plays director and actor Chris Bean, has also been able to draw on his personal experience with the show.
“I’ve seen little things where people forget entrances or they forget to exit, or they jump ahead in lines,” Manning said. “It’s cathartic to play it out in a comedic way. I know firsthand how some of these actors feel in the show.”
Manning was born and raised in Texas and did a production of “Wolf Hall” with Folsom. He got burned out by high school marching band and became a history major who minored in acting as an excuse to take more acting classes.
He has a career as a history teacher, yet he still likes performing on stage, telling a story and making people laugh. As the fictional director, though, Manning said Chris is probably the one that cares most about the play going well and winces at the laughs.
The multiple layers to the production can pose a challenge. But Manning and the others also have to deal with the challenge of elevation of the fast-paced show.
“It’s very physical comedy, and it’s high energy. There have been times where I’ve made notes to myself to breathe a certain way,” Manning said.
Both agree Greenwood and Manning agree that “The Play That Goes Wrong” will appeal to anyone no matter their knowledge of the medium. Theater lovers will enjoy it because its about the industry while others may be sucked in just by the farcical nature.
“There are so many jokes or physical gags that it’s literally a show that anybody could enjoy no matter what your theatrical background is,” Manning said.
For Folsom, he simply wants people’s cares to wash away.
“It is a real palate cleanser for the times,” Folsom said. “It’s going to enable you to forget your day-to-day life distractions for a couple of hours.”
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