Bad Play review – Edinburgh Festival Fringe ★★★☆☆

3 mins read

It’s a pretty bold move to call your theatre show ‘Bad Play’, especially at a festival the size of the Edinburgh Fringe, where there will, inevitably, be a number of plays which really are very, very bad. 

This play, subtitled ‘ The Next Great American Drama’, is a pastiche of the great American plays of the twentieth century. In case you’re confused, you need to be aware that there’s a noticeable difference between American theatre and British theatre. Two countries separated by one drama, if you will.

British Theatre has traditionally had a three-act structure, which later became two, in which the story is often the most important element. However, American theatre tends to be more concerned with the psychology of the characters and less with the plot. There’s also sometimes a tendency towards Melodrama that has long faded from public appreciation in the UK.


This play takes the tropes and stereotypes of the classic American play and condenses them down into an hour-long dash through a story of a man, a woman, and their two grown-up children.

All is as would be expected: Woody (Brian Fitzgerald), the man, has a gambling problem, and a door-to-door sales job. Of course, he has no idea of his wife’s name. His wife, Mabel (Lyndsey Kempf), is downtrodden and long-suffering, and awaiting the return of her sons.

One son, Noble (Eli Lutsky), is returning from war. The other, Bad Brad (Brad Beideman) is returning from prison. Both dutifully arrive, leading to a series of melodramatic revelations which have devastating consequences.

The family dinner, the misunderstandings, the secrets divulged, and the mistakes made are pulled seemingly directly from the script of almost any American play you care to name. 

In what is presumably a deliberate move, all the characters appear to be dressed in costumes from different eras. It gives a timeless sense as the play could be taking place at any time from 1947 to the late 1990s. 

Final Thoughts

The whole endeavour is very meta. The offered ‘Playbill’ has an addendum as one of the actors is unable to appear. ‘Bad Brad’, who, within the world of the show was supposed to be being played by a major Hollywood celebrity, therefore has all the best lines, and also the least to do. Kudos to his agent.

Those familiar with the social media uploads of Tyler Joseph Ellis will already be familiar with the monologuing and the tropes on display here. 

A funny enough hour, although perhaps overlong in its current structure, Bad Play avoids being a very, very bad play, and is in fact, an above-average evening of melodrama. 

Bad Play continues at the Edinburgh Fringe until 26th August.

Featured Image Credit: Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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