ASU Theatre presents ‘The One-Act Play That Goes Wrong’
ALAMOSA — Few things serve up the holiday spirit more than the joyous sound of a theater filled with laughter, and that’s exactly what’s on tap this holiday season at Adams State University’s (ASU) SLV Federal Bank Main Stage.
Continuing with a tradition that is marking its 20th year and has brought such holiday classics as “A Christmas Carol”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Peter Pan” to the stage, the ASU Theatre Department celebrates this year’s holiday season with “The One-Act Play That Goes Wrong," a family-oriented piece that “plays to ages 5 to 105.”
“It’s one of the most produced works over the last few years,” says John Taylor, who chairs the ASU Theatre Department and is directing the production. “It’s part of a series of ‘Goes Wrong’ plays that come out of the British Mischief Theatre Company.”
In a conversation with the Valley Courier, Taylor’s summary of the play-within-a-play gives a promising glimpse of the comedic antics audiences can expect.
“It’s a play about an amateur theater company in England called the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, and this is their winter production called “The Murder at Haversham Manor." The play is about a group of actors in 2023 putting on a play — a murder mystery — set in 1922.
“From the opening moments of the play,” Taylor says, “and despite all their best efforts, some things and then bigger things and then major things start to go wrong. The actors, who are seriously committed to making the play work, struggle to keep the play moving forward as the world around them comes crumbling down.”
Listening to Taylor’s description, one is reminded of other great comedic scenarios played by the likes of Lucille Ball or Peter Sellers. But, in “The One-Act Play That Goes Wrong”, the scenario involves a company of amateur actors. Hard to imagine a better set-up to make people laugh.
“It's an hour and 15 minutes with no intermission and, once it starts, it keeps going to the very end. The great sight gags just don’t let up. I’m hoping the audience has a great time coming to the theater and laughing at the misfortune of this acting company.”
Taylor’s tagline seems to capture it perfectly. “It’s perfectly awful but wonderfully funny.”
Good bad acting is not an easy feat to pull off, and Taylor references an anonymous but famous quote. “Dying is easy,” he says. “Comedy is hard.”
As he told the actors in rehearsal, “Our task is to make the world of the play — including acting, set, and costumes — to appear appropriately amateurish while in actuality delivering a high-quality production of this play.”
Timing in the show is precise, he tells the Valley Courier, and so many things are going wrong that the audience has to be able to catch.
“To also do that safely has been a great challenge for our actors, but it’s also been a good experience in rehearsal to do something like this where they can’t ‘just kinda’ do it. There has to be full commitment with the timing exactly spot-on.”
Daunting as that may sound, Taylor is “really pleased” with where the actors are at this point. “[They’re] doing a great job at playing actually awful actors, and the audience is going to have a wonderful time.”
In 2004, Taylor was the first director to put on a family-oriented play to celebrate the holiday season, making this year’s play the 20th such play to be produced. But that mile marker is not the only thing making the 2023 season special.
“For the first time since COVID, we are having some really strong matinees,” he says. “One matinee is sold out and the second is three-quarters full. We’re much closer to being back to normal and where we were before.”
Against that backdrop, he adds, “And we all could use a good laugh as we gather together for the holiday season, couldn’t we? What better way to spend some time than getting together as family and friends, laughing and just having a really great time at the theater. That’s what it’s all about.”
In one more attempt to further whet the audience’s appetite, the Valley Courier asked Taylor if there’s anything specific they should expect to see in the play.
Taylor thinks for a moment and then says, “Expect…the unexpected.” The smile in his voice says it all.
Public performances of “The One-Act Play That Goes Wrong” run at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, 8, and 9, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 3. All performances take place on the San Luis Valley Federal Bank Main Stage, located in the Theatre Building on the ASU campus.
Tickets are $13 and may be purchased through the box office, 719-587-8499, which is open from Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. starting Nov. 27. They are also available online at www.adams.edu/academics/undergraduate/theatre/.
Associated Students and Faculty with current Adams State I.D. are admitted for free.
The Share the Magic benefit performance for La Puente Home is the evening of Dec. 2. The Adams State alumni performance is 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 10. The production is sponsored in part through the generosity of Billings Electric and Valley Lock and Security.