Chris/Stunt Coordinator/Fight Captain
Understudy Sandra, Annie
Understudy Chris, Robert, Dennis
Understudy Jonathan, Max, Trevor
Scenic Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Production Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Manager
Props Artisan
Assistant Director
Audio Supervisor
Head Electrician

It’s so bad, it’s good.

The perfect multi-generational holiday outing for friends and family!

The Play That Goes Wrong

By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer & Henry Shields
Directed by Fred Sullivan Jr.
RUNNING TIME: Approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

2022/23 Season Sponsors:

Paul Kastner
G. Lee & Diana Humphrey
Production Sponsor: Joe Richard & RenÉ Morrissette
Director Sponsor: Fred Sullivan, Jr. Sponsored by Sam & Gretchen Shubrooks
Cast Sponsor: Ruth Rotundo Whitney
Set Designer Sponsor: Mary & Larry Shaw


“Break a leg!” takes on a whole new meaning for a woefully misguided troupe of players at the Cornley University Society’s opening night performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor. An unconscious leading lady, a corpse who can’t play dead, a ruffled detective, and a word-mangling butler (among others) must battle against technical gaffes, forgotten lines, and sabotaging scenery in a quest to arrive all in one piece at the final curtain call. Part Monty Python, part Sherlock Holmes, all mayhem—this 1920s whodunit is disastrously delightful.
This production uses strobe lighting and fog effects. One live simulated gunshot in Act 2.
Trevor, the lighting and sound operator, welcomes the audience and asks them to turn off their electronic devices as Annie, the stage manager, tries and fails to get a prop mantelpiece attached to the wall. He also asks them to look for a Duran Duran CD that he lost. Trevor exits and begins to give directions to the cast over radio, not realizing he is being broadcast throughout the theater; we learn that Winston the dog, who should appear in Act Two, is missing. The director of the production, Chris, introduces the Cornley Drama Society and their performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor. He apologizes to the audience for a ticket mix-up and informs them that this is the first play that has perfectly accommodated the number of society members, and that he is confident this will be their best show yet.   Jonathan, who is supposed to be playing the victim Charles Haversham, struggles to get into corpse position on the chaise before the lights come up. Robert (playing Thomas Colleymoore) and Dennis (playing Perkins the Butler) call out for Charles from outside the manor door, but cannot get the door to open, so they enter through the side of the set. Dennis tries to take Jonathan’s pulse on his forehead, prompting Jonathan to re-adjust so that Dennis’ fingers are on his neck. As Robert crosses in front of the chaise, he steps on Jonathan’s hand. Robert declares that Jonathan has been murdered.   Using a voice pipe on the wall, Dennis calls for the rest of the household. Robert suggests that the death was a suicide; while doing so he tries to hang his jacket on a hook, but the hook falls down. Dennis asks if he should call the police, but Robert replies that because of a snowstorm they wouldn’t make it to the scene for days. Instead he decides to call Inspector Carter, who lives on the other side of the village. During the phone call, the dramatic music that should accompany the mention of murder glitches and plays for longer than it should. Trevor notes the sound effect error over the loudspeaker. As Robert and Dennis move to lock the doors to the house, Jonathan moves his hand, replacing it just in time to be stepped on again.    Dennis tries to exit through the door, but it is still stuck, trapping Sandra and delaying her entrance as Florence Colleymoore, Charles’ fiance. She begins her scene from the window, at which point the door is finally opened by members of the stage crew. Max, playing Charles’ brother Cecil, enters through the door, followed by Sandra. Dennis takes an elevator to the second level of the set, where he pulls out a full bottle of scotch and uses the voice pipe to tell Robert that the bottle is empty. Realizing his mistake, he pours the scotch into the voice pipe, spraying Robert, who replies that there is another bottle in the cabinet. Dennis finds the empty bottle he was supposed to get the first time, puts it on a tray, and walks past the window. Unbeknownst to him, Annie switches out the empty bottle for a full bottle of something labeled “White Spirit,” complete with a large flammable symbol.   As Sandra’s character dissolves into a hysterical episode, she beats Jonathan’s chest, causing him to flinch. Dennis reappears and pours Max a glass of white spirit, which he drinks and promptly spits out. In keeping with the script, Dennis pours him another glass, which he sips and once again spits out – onto Jonathan’s face. Jonathan jolts upright; Robert pushes him back down onto the chaise. Max reads from Charles’ journal, which was supposed to be on the mantelpiece, but instead was held against the wall by Annie from backstage. Dennis replaces the journal where the mantelpiece should be, but it falls to the floor. Another sound cue error marks the arrival of Inspector Carter, played by Chris.   The group exchanges somber pleasantries and drinks to Charles, hitting Jonathan on the head in the process. Once again, the white spirit causes everybody to sputter. Chris asks Dennis and Robert to move the body to the upstairs study for examination; they cannot lift Jonathan, so they roll him onto the stretcher, which promptly breaks, depositing Jonathan on the floor. Robert and Dennis carry the wooden stretcher poles offstage, and Jonathan tries (and fails) to stealthily exit with the stretcher canvas.   Alone downstairs, Sandra and Max reveal, as Florence and Cecil, that they are having an affair. During their scene, Max removes a ledger from the chaise cushions and sets it underneath the chaise. Upstairs, Jonathan tries to enter unseen, but scares Dennis and Robert, who have been miming carrying a dead body; as he resumes playing the corpse, he hits his head on the elevator door. Jonathan then takes a prop letter out of his inside jacket pocket and hands it to Robert, who pretends he found it in Jonathan’s trouser pocket and gives it to Chris. Chris dusts the body for fingerprints, causing Jonathan to have a coughing fit. He falls off the upper level and lands on the floor between Max and Sandra. He exits unceremoniously, forcing Robert and Dennis to mime lifting the body once again.   Robert interrupts Max and Sandra, looking for a pencil for the Inspector; he cannot find the prop pencil, so he grabs a set of keys instead. After he exits Dennis bursts in to take the keys, but finding them missing, takes the Inspector’s notebook. Robert re-enters for the notebook and leaves with a vase of flowers. Dennis misses his next cue, forcing Max to sloppily kiss Sandra. She recoils and falls off the chaise. Dennis finally enters with two candlesticks, which Max directs him to set on the mantelpiece; once again, Annie sticks her hands through the fireplace to hold the props. The cartouche falls when Dennis slams the door, revealing her face to the audience. She cannot get the candlesticks to fit through the holes in the fireplace. As Max continues the scene, Jonathan suddenly bursts through the downstairs door, making his entrance far too early, and awkwardly exits.   Chris enters, hitting his head on the door shield, which he pulls off the wall and throws offstage. Dennis follows him, carrying a load of props, which Chris directs him to place “on the mantelpiece” – forcing Dennis to balance them in Annie’s arms, as she is still holding the candlesticks. Chris begins to question Dennis, who burns his hand while trying to light a cigarette and lights the scotch in the coal scuttle on fire. The clamor startles Annie, causing her to drop all of the props she was holding, and Robert makes an unscripted entrance with a fire extinguisher. At the end of his interview Dennis gathers the dropped props and exits with them; when Sandra and Robert re-enter, slamming the door behind them, he drops them all again.   Chris asks for his pencil and notebook; Robert hands him the keys and vase as he leaves, then runs into Dennis, causing him to drop everything again. Sandra comes in a line early, getting both her and Chris off track. When they finally recover, Robert and Max burst in, hitting Sandra on the head with the door and knocking her unconscious. The others attempt to continue the scene without her, but the clock hands show an incorrect time, and the portrait that should be of the Havershams’ father is a picture of a dog. Offstage, Robert and Jonathan try to pull Sandra through the open window, joined by Annie and Trevor when their attempts go south. Chris opens the curtains, revealing them to the audience. The clamor intensifies, forcing Chris and Max to shout their lines.    Alone onstage, Chris cannot find the ledger that accompanies his cue and becomes flustered. He finally finds it under the chaise; the ledger is inscribed with Charles’ initials and has a newly written will folded inside. The ribbon will not come united, so he reads off of the closed document. Chris takes the elevator up to the study as Max and Robert converse on the lower level. The elevator malfunctions, and Chris drops the ledger. When he finally slams the elevator door shut, props begin to fall off the walls. Robert and Max catch them, leaving them to perform an uncomfortable maneuver to answer the ringing phone. Max reveals that he is having an affair with Sandra; a sword fight between him and Robert ensues, but the props break, forcing them to narrate their swordplay. Robert chases Max offstage, and we hear gunshots.   Annie, forced to assume Sandra’s role, comes onstage with a script in hand. As the scene progresses, Jonathan once again makes an incorrect entrance. Max staggers in, clearly wounded, and dies on the chaise. An incorrect musical cue plays from Trevor’s lost Duran Duran CD. Annie begins to take her role a bit too seriously, upstaging Robert. Dennis misses his cue several times, trapping Robert, Chris, and himself in the same looping bit of dialogue. He finally realizes his mistake and says his correct line, closing out the act.  
Chris welcomes the audience back after intermission, assuring the audience that the mishap they noticed were routine, and that the Society has seen worse first acts before. Trevor, broadcast over the loudspeaker, lets us know that Sandra is still unconscious and the dog is still missing. Chris asks anyone who ate the salted nuts at intermission to seek medical help immediately, and the second act begins.   The curtain comes up on Annie, Robert, Dennis, Max, Jonathan, and the stage crew scrambling to reset the fallen props. Chris enters and quickly motions for the curtain to close; when it reopens, Annie, Robert, Dennis, and Chris have resumed their proper positions, and the props are all in place. Just as Dennis says his first line, all the props fall onto the floor. The cast push everything into the wings and continue with the scene. When Chris exits, Jonathan can clearly be seen in the doorway; he ducks out of view. Annie drops her script and is forced to ad-lib, Trevor continually plays an obnoxious sound cue, and the elevator breaks as Robert is attempting to go upstairs, forcing Annie and Dennis to boost him up.    Robert and Chris freeze in character, while downstairs, a prop bookshelf with a secret passageway malfunctions as Dennis tries to hide Annie away. A knock at the door reveals Max dressed as a new character, Arthur the Gardener. The dog is still missing, so he holds an empty leash. He and Dennis have to mime the dog. Max walks into a pillar and knocks it over, causing the upper level with Chris and Robert on it to tilt. When Robert tries to exit through the door, the handle comes off, trapping them. The drinks cabinet upstairs slips and nearly falls on Annie. With the elevator broken, Chris and Robert are forced to drop down to the lower level by foot. As the scene progresses, the upper level shifts again, causing all of its furniture to come crashing down onto Robert. Unable to reach the ringing phone, the cast mimes a telephone cord and receiver that they hold up to Robert’s ear. He tries to exit and take the furniture with him, but creates a commotion that once again forces the other actors to yell over him.   Successfully offstage with all the furniture, Robert re-enters, hitting Annie on the head and knocking her unconscious. He and Chris lift her body out the window after Sandra reappears, clad in her underwear. Chris, Robert, and Dennis exit, leaving Max and Sandra alone; Max, despite his stage directions, cannot look at Sandra. As she tries to direct him, one of his mutton chops detaches from his face. Sandra is knocked out again by Trevor, who is inside the clock. They place Sandra inside the clock and Trevor begins to read as Florence. Goaded on by the audience, Max very sloppily kisses him. Chris, Robert, and Dennis re-enter, and a wrong step by Robert causes the upper level to collapse completely onto Trevor. From inside the clock, Sandra wakes up and continues in character.    Annie re-enters, also playing Florence, until Sandra opens the clock door and hits her. Each tries to get the other offstage. Dennis, who has been handcuffed to the chaise, accuses Chris, the Inspector; Jonathan finally makes his correct entrance as Charles, revealing that he is in fact alive. However, he cannot find the keys to free Dennis. Robert and Max carry the chaise to help him retrieve Jonathan’s papers. While trying to escape, Robert, who is also guilty, tears the door off its hinges and throws it backstage. Jonathan, entering through the upper-level door, falls off the edge and swings across the stage on a broken lighting rig, landing safely downstairs. As Sandra and Annie continue to battle for the role of Florence, the rest of the cast tries to navigate the damaged set.    Jonathan confronts Robert; inside the attaché case where there should be a train ticket, there is a Duran Duran CD. As Chris enters, Jonathan takes his gun and attempts to fire it, but it does not fire. He finally mimes the action; the gun then explodes at his side, injuring his hand. Dennis enters, still attached to the chaise, causing a chain reaction that destroys the remainder of the set. Robert dies dramatically; Duran Duran once again plays instead of Jonathan’s dramatic closing music, and as he finally speaks the last lines of the show, the chandelier hanging above the space crashes down on him.
* Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
** Represented by United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829 of the IATSE
° Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
Help Lyric Stage Care for our Neighbors!
During the run of The Play That Goes Wrong, we will be collecting personal hygiene items for our friends who reside at 140 Clarendon as part of the affordable housing units supported by Beacon Communities.
We will be accepting items such as soap, shampoo/conditioner, underwear for men and women (all sizes), socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, lotion, hand sanitizer, feminie hygiene products, shaving cream, razors, toilet paper, hair brushes, Q-tips, and tissues.
Before the show, drop off your items in Kumba Library located on the same floor as the theater.
Thank you for helping us help our neighbors!

Press & Reviews:

‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is just right | Boston Herald | Jed Gottlieb
“It’s a love letter to the theater, it’s a love letter to actors,” Sullivan said. “It has magic to it. There’s an innocence to it… I dare people not to be charmed by it.”
"The true star of the show is scenic designer Peter Colao, who, while working within the confines of the script’s very specific requirements, must protect the Lyric Stage cast (and audience) from danger even as he allows the set to collapse all around them."
"The Play That Goes Wrong" Review | GBH - Morning Edition | Jared Bowen
"The comedy shines through in this production, Bowen says, offering much-needed humor for audiences."
"The Play That Goes Wrong" Review | METRMag.com | Kevin T. Baldwin
"Through the magnificent collective effort of the Lyric cast, the comedy gets the volume turned all the way up to "11." Without Peter Colao's set and Fred Sullivan, Jr.'s expert stage direction, the planned "failures" incorporated into the script would never fire off as brilliantly as they do."
" Without a doubt, this production is truly, completely and disastrously hysterical as well as laugh out loud funny."
" If pratfalls, mishaps, and chaos are your game, “The Play That Goes Wrong” presents them artfully."
" Toss in ticklish corpses, unconscious leading ladies, multifarious miscues, and technical  gaffes all orchestrated by virtuoso director Fred Sullivan, Jr. who knows a thing or two about the precision required to make this bedlam a thing of beauty– and you’ve got a winner."

Ticket Prices

Single Tickets
Play Center Musical Center Play Side Musical Side
ST Wed Mat $55 $60 $40 $45
ST Weeknight $70 $75 $50 $55
ST Weekend $75 $80 $55 $60
20% Prices for Group Sales
Play C Musical C Play S Musical S
ST Wed Mat $44 $48 $32 $36
ST Weeknight $56 $60 $40 $44
ST Weekend $60 $64 $44 $48


See the Whole Season