Midpeninsula Post

Gunn High puts on comedy play “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Juniors Arturo Garrido Gomez (left) and Connor Engstrom (right) in "The Play That Goes Wrong" in November 2023. (Josh Scheinman)

Gunn High School’s theater program performed “The Play That Goes Wrong” last week, leaving audience members in fits of laughter.

Set in the fictitious Cornley Drama Society, the comedy follows the amateur production of a murder mystery play called “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” which takes place in London during the 1920s. 

As the play’s title suggests, everything in the production goes hilariously wrong, from malfunctioning stage sets to collapsing props. 

“I enjoyed letting off the steam by laughing,” audience and cast  family member Jouhaina Muddi said. “Not having [the play] be serious was really comforting and wonderful.”

Senior Nathan Levy also noted that the comedy is easy to understand because of the humorous acting and visuals in the play.

“This play is very accessible in the fact that the comedy is very physical,” Levy said. “This play was very easy for the audience to come see.”

To contrast last year’s tragicomedy “Translations,” the theater department selected this play for its playful and light-hearted theme. Performing Arts Director Kristen Lo, who has been teaching theater at Gunn for 14 years, also took the actors’ personalities into account when deciding to put on a comedy play.

“I just noticed this year that I have so many really comedic actors, that it would be irresponsible of me not to pick a really strong comedy,” Lo said.

The actors themselves also felt they were better suited to star in comedies rather than more traditional plays.

“I’ve always been a comedy-oriented person, but this play is so comedy-specific that I’ve learned a lot about timing and interacting with an audience,” said senior Theo Waltuch, who played Dennis, a slow-witted butler in the show.

Especially in light of recent global conflicts, Lo said she believes choosing a comedy play was the right choice, and hopes the play allowed people to put aside worries for a few hours.

“This is very much escapist theater,” Lo said. “There is not really a lot to get out of it except a really good time.”

Because of the technical complexity involved in the production, the stage tech crew worked tirelessly to construct a set that could endure all the mishaps of the play.

According to assistant stage manager and senior William Sahami, the set plays an integral role in the show because of the energy it brings to the production. In the final scene, all the walls of the set come crashing down onto the stage, making for an entertaining and comical end to the production.

“The set gets to be a character,” Sahami said. “It’s not just a vessel for the actors to build their own character.”

Co-head costume designer and senior Sofia Hussain said that another key part of the play was the costumes. She spent weeks working to match the costumes to the early 20th-century setting of the play, which she found especially challenging. Despite the struggles she ran into to put together cohesive costumes, Hussain said she was satisfied with the final outfits.

“It just takes a minute of messing around with the actor and seeing what they look good in,” Hussain said.

Along with the efforts of the stage tech and costume crew, the actors also felt that the collaboration and teamwork of those in the theater department directly led to a successful play.

“The dichotomy between the acting and the tech is really resolved well in this show because everybody’s just working together so seamlessly,” said junior Connor Engstrom, who played Max, the suave and regal brother of Charles Haversham.

Throughout the course of preparing and rehearsing the play, actors also felt like they were able to make their characters their own through countless rehearsals.

“You start picking up on moments where you want to explore a little bit more or you see opportunities to add in a little bit of your own,” said junior Arturo Garrido Gomez, who played Robert, the brother to Charles’ fiancé.

The play was announced to theater students during the first week of school, which was shortly followed by auditions, set-building and rehearsals. Members of the theater department felt their hard work resulted in a spectacular performance.

“[The play] has been really a labor of love, but it’s come out beautifully,” Sahami said.

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