WHAT "The Play That Goes Wrong"
WHERE New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St.
INFO $95: 212-239-6200, telecharge.com
Theater is often painful. And sometimes it just hurts.
Ask Commack’s Ashley Reyes, who takes quite the beating in “The Play That Goes Wrong,” the wacky comedy at New World Stages. Playing the femme fatale fiancee of a murder victim in the hit that just moved Off-Broadway after nearly two years at the Lyceum Theatre, her character is knocked out cold in the first act. When she is finally revived midway through the second, she has doors slammed in her face, is forced to crawl through a window, gets a silver platter smashed over her head and is locked in a grandfather clock before ending up with her mouth and hands wrapped in duct tape.
And honestly, other cast members get worse treatment. But it’s all part of the hilarity in the play by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields that won a Tony Award for best scenic design in 2017. “It looks insane, and to be honest it feels a little bit insane,” says Reyes, who first joined the company as an understudy primarily to the other female character, the stage manager Annie, while the play was still on Broadway.
She went on 40 times in that part, but also played the fiancee for a week. When the move was announced, Reyes was convinced that was the role she wanted to go after. “It’s a challenging part,” she says, “she’s the ingenue but she’s not very nice.” Now that Reyes has the role, she says she works out all the time to keep in shape, and acknowledges that she does go home with some bruises. “Your skin gets used to it after awhile,” she says.
A graduate of Commack High School, Reyes grew up doing theater on the Island. Much of it was at Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, where she started out as one of the von Trapp children in “The Sound of Music.” She did a variety of roles at the Smithtown theater, says managing and artistic director Ken Washington, who notes that it wasn’t until she was in high school that he truly realized this was one of those kids who was going to make it. It’s usually not until then, he says, “when you see that the passion matches the talent.”
It was Washington who encouraged Reyes to pursue acting rather than to focus on musicals, which led her to the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. When she finished there, Reyes headed to Los Angeles, but immediately found she missed the support of family and friends. She headed home and worked as a waitress for only a few weeks before a contact from London connected her with the creative team of “The Play That Goes Wrong.”
Now she’s settling in for what she hopes will be a long Off-Broadway run, which famously retracted its original closing notice (moving it from Aug. 26, 2018, to Jan. 6, 2019). The move, she says, hasn’t changed much about the show. The set is the same, though this new stage is a touch wider. The biggest difference, she says, is the size of house — instead of 1,000, New World Stages seats 350. “It feels like we’re doing this show for a TV camera,” she says. “Every nuance, every eye movement, the audience can see it and they pick up on it.” At the Lyceum everything had to be bigger to reach the back of the house, she says, but now really small movements read to people in the back. “This,” she says, “just feels more natural.”