Casual fans of the theater will no doubt find amusing Mistakes Were Made, Craig Wright’s
tortured and torturous new comedy about a theater producer. Producer Felix
Artifex (who has a poster of his revival of Cat
on a Hot Tin Roof, starring Roseanne Barr and Erik Estrada, hanging on a
wall) takes calls and tries to force a reluctant playwright to create an
entirely new plot for his French Revolution drama to satisfy an interested
movie star. Suddenly, the French Revolution drama that Felix wants to mount on
Broadway will now feature a dying child, who urges her brother to ensure that
the revolution happens with her dying breath, before said brother falls in love
with Marie Antoinette. Oh, and that movie star? He’d really prefer a one-man
The problem is, everything about the show (which is little
more than a 90-minute monologue from Felix, with occasional interruptions from
his secretary, Esther, played by Mierka Girten) feels as cynical for those of
us invested in quality theater as Felix’s real opinion of the French Revolution
drama, also called Mistakes Were Made.
Felix is trying to wrangle a star name, no matter the cost, while dealing with
the repercussions of a bizarre get-rich-quick scheme involving a thousand sheep
now being held hostage in a desert by men with flamethrowers. As he paces,
screams, coaxes and flatters, Felix is a man unraveling.
Which gives star Michael Shannon plenty of opportunity to
overact. Director Dexter Bullard keeps him on the move, grinding pages of the
script under his heel or jumping up during lulls in phone calls to converse
with a fish (poor puppeteer Sam Deutsch spends the show in a box, jerking the
fish on a string). Shannon makes sure we’re never bored, but not being bored
doesn’t mean we’re interested. After a while, we simply don’t care whether or
not Felix gets his shot at producing a Broadway blockbuster. Certainly not the
one he’s now trying to pitch his playwright, at least.
By the play’s end, which finds Felix contemplating a one-man
show about a man fraying at the seams while trying to produce a Broadway show,
one might be tempted to envy those who were able to hang up on him. At least
they can escape from his ceaseless vortex of lies, double-talk and
misdirection. Alas, we’re in it for the whole ride, whether or not we find in
Felix an avatar of all that is wrong with Broadway. Enough mistakes are made
every season on the Great White Way without having Wright embroider on them.
Mistakes Were Made
Through Feb. 27, 2011, Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St.
(at 7th Ave.), 212-868-4444; $45–$65.