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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ goes right

Eric Schutt and Braden Hoyer’s characters struggle to keep the set together as they execute their scene.

The technical rehearsal for TheaterUNI’s latest production, “The Play That Goes Wrong ” begins with a fight call. The ensemble cast of eight gathers to practice their many stunts that occur in the show, including a sword fight, many a stage slap, and hair pulling. The production team for TheaterUNI’s latest production, “The Play That Goes Wrong” was kind enough to give the Northern Iowan a look into the prep work that goes into creating a show from the ground up, and a glimpse at the exciting play coming to the Strayer-Wood Theater. 

Of course they didn’t notice, I improvised!

— Braden Hoyer, cast member

The premise of the play is a bit complicated. It’s a play within a play, or more specifically, a play about a play. The play within “The Play That Goes Wrong” is titled “Murder at Haversham Manor”, and follows a Clue-like scenario about a murder mystery. But, the only thing is, everything within said play goes horribly wrong. “This is my directorial debut,” crows the director, played by Sam Trumpold, at the top of Act I. This is one of the only things to go correctly in the play.

Hoyer’s character performs a spit take. (COURTESY)

What ensues is an almost two hour run of laughter at the horrors the actors within the play are facing, and in some instances, withstanding. What makes “The Play That Goes Wrong” so complex is that the actors in the play are also playing actors in a play. On the cast list, they are listed at the character’s name, then their role in “Murder at Haversham Manor”. While it makes for a more complex show, it truly gives the actors a chance to shine and really push their acting abilities. The ensemble cast of eight runs a seamlessly entertaining show, all while quite literally having walls fall down around them. The ensemble is made up of an array of UNI students. They include Brayden Hoyer, Kira Manuel, Eric Schutt, Sam Trumpold, Holden McGraw, Peyton Robbins, Lauren Steelman and Annie O’Connell. The amount of complexity within their characters can be caught in glimpses throughout the show, in glances, facial expressions, and whispered, heated conversations. “Of course they didn’t notice, I improvised!” shouts Hoyer’s character from backstage at one point in the show. 

Beyond the complexity of the characters, the intricacies of the set cannot be overstated. Since the play goes horribly wrong, the set crew has clearly worked hard to make a set that implodes on itself while providing the cast and crew with plenty of safety precautions. While the mistakes are built into the show, the mistakes are also precariously planned out by the crew. “Last night was a strong, clean, run. I want to keep that energy going. We’re locking it in,” coaches director Matthew Weedman before the full run through began. The show is composed of two acts, with a fifteen minute intermission in the middle. The first act ends with a bang (quite literally) and the second act builds off of the energy of the first act, taking it a few steps further.

Holden McGraw’s character, Perkins, “takes” Peyton Robbin’s pulse. (COURTESY)

TheaterUNI is prepared for a swath of shows for their ‘23-’24 season, and “The Play That Goes Wrong” just scratches the surface of that. “The Play That Goes Wrong” shows at Strayer-Wood Theater Sept. 29 & Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 & 7 at 7:30 p.m., with matinee showings on Oct. 1 & 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through the UNITix website or through the box office at Strayer-Wood Theater. 

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