Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival kicks off its 33rd season with an uproariously entertaining “The Play That Goes Wrong” through June 16 on the Main Stage Theatre, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, DeSales University, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley.

“The Play That Goes Wrong,”a new collaboration between the festival and 1812 Productions, Philadelphia’s all comedy theater company is wonderfully hilarious with one of the funniest casts I’ve seen in a long time that had me laughing even before the show officially started.

Expertly directed by Jennifer Childs, Producing Artistic Director for 1812 Productions, the blocking and timing of the play is crucial and everyhing was extremely well-executed.

The premise of this play within a play, is an amateur theater group, the Cornley Drama Society, is staging a production of “The Murder at Haversham Murder.” The actors, of varying skill, are earnestly trying to get through the two-ac play as everything that can go wrong does. The joke is how the determined actors plow ahead with single-minded determination to finish he play as the set literally collapses around them. It’s all gleefully funny.

So dedicated to this premise is the show, that playbills (or playwills) are distributed specifically for the play within the play.

As the play opens, Charles Haversham, played with droll perfection by Ian Merrill Peakes, is found dead at his engagement party. But this is one corpse that can’t stay still and Peakes’ grim crossing of his arms to frequently reassure the audience know he is indeed dead gets a laugh every time.

As Charles’ fiance Florence, Karen Peakes proves a superb physical comedian as she is accidentally knocked out, is dragged around by the cast members and falls out a window all while trying to continue her role, even without her costume and wig.

Justin Jain is inspired as Charles brother Cecil, who is having an affair with his fiance. The actor playing the part Jain is portraying is so obviously excited to be onstage that he beams through some of the most serious lines and enthusiastically overacts as he ridiculously pantomimes many of his lines as he speaks them. Jain’s non-stop grin even as everything is falling apart, is side-splittingly funny.

Sean Close as Charles butler is another performer who is intentionally, and hilariously, a bad actor who very obviously has a crib sheet written on his hand with words that he repeatedly mispronounces such as morose and cyanide.

Scott Greer who plays Charles best friend Thomas, plays it straighter but humorously takes the brunt of many of the the prop and set disasters. His looks of disbelief as he tries to grab props that aren’t there, hold up set pieces and even clings for his life as the set collapses under him are truly funny stuff.

Also playing it somewhat straight is Anthony Lawton as a police inspector and the hapless director of the murder play. Lawton’s increasing frustration with the situation as he desperately tries to hold it together is humorously palpable.

Melanie Cotton is also a hoot as Annie, a back stage person who fills in for Peakes’ Florence after she is knocked unconscious. Cotton’s Annie is at first reluctant but then enthusiastically and competitively dives into the whole crazy production.

Eli Lynn also shines as the plays none-too-attentive stage manager who is ultimately also dragged on stage to fill in for a role and who responds unexpectedly but humorously.

Kudos to stage designer Colin McIlvaine whose ingenious set was crazy good. This is a comedy that wouldn’t work so well if the set wasn’t designed perfectly, as doors don’t open on cue, things fall off the wall at just the right time, and set pieces collapse with perfect precision. There is even a dubious elevator that adds to the hilarity.

Audiences are warned there are gunshots, flames and smoke effects, loud noises and sound effects, and general mayhem from beginning to end.

There will be a Director’s Dinner with Childs at 5 p.m. June 12 and a talk-back with the actors after the shows June 6 and 13.

The 2 p.m. June 8 performance will feature open captioning for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing and audio descriptions for patrons who are blind or visually impaired.

The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival also includes three Shakespeare plays “The Comedy of Errors,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and “Cymbeline;” two musicals, “The Color Purple” and “The Last Five Years;” and two children’s productions, “Winnie-the-Pooh & Friends “and “Shakespeare for Kids.”

Performances are 7:30 p.m. June 5-7, 12-14; 2 p.m. June 1-2, 9, 16; 6:30 p.m. June 4, 11; 2 and 7:30 p.m. June 8, 15.

Tickets are $40 to $65.

For information, call 610-282-9455, or go to