Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mistakes Were Made (The SOB Review)

Mistakes Were Made (The SOB Review) - A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago, Illinois

*** (out of ****)

Felix Artifex, the bumptious, brash antihero of Craig Wright's caustically funny new comedy Mistakes Were Made, certainly is much too preoccupied to even ponder the old proverb that "Desperate times call for desperate measures."

Yet this blustery, sell-out of a would-be Broadway producer who clearly hasn't had a recent hit, if ever, is the epitome of that saying. He certainly has volumes over which to despair.

Played with a daring degree of delirious dexterity by Michael Shannon, Felix is willing to gamble everything he has on the chance to stage his first world premiere on the Great White Way. As part of his garish gambit, Mistakes Were Made aplenty and more are fully loaded.

Already, Felix has toted up some doozies including alienating and losing his wife for reasons that become all too clear. In the name of compromise, Felix is all too willing to throw his playwright and his French Revolutionary work under the bus in the name of snagging a hot young actor to sell tickets for his production. He's also willing to lie to everyone from his director to his money people. And speaking of money, he's in such dire need of it, he tries moving shipments of sheep through an unnamed, yet all too familiar wartorn theatre.

Subtle he's not. Yet as abrassive, shallow and difficult as Felix becomes, Shannon suffuses his role with just enough dignity that you find yourself cheering him on as he banters via telephone with an unseen cavalcade of characters. With the exception of his mostly heard but rarely seen secretary (Mierka Girten), Mistakes Were Made is as close as any play can get to being a one-man-show without truly being one. As Shannon gets revved up, his Felix exhibits more than a whiff of desperation -- he perspires so precipitously and progressively that you're practically waiting for him to keel over dead from a heart attack. Shannon's nearly heartstopping turn is the very definition of a tour de force performance.

Wright's largely one-sided dialogue is mostly whipsaw smart, especially with an unceasing barrage of seemingly throw-away lines that add tremendously to Felix's depth, thanks in no small part to Dexter Bullard's deft direction. While Wright's Middle Eastern tangent is less sheepish than contrived, it does manage to tie-up lines 3, 4, 5 and 7 of Felix's incoming calls to uproarious initial effect.

Despite a few missteps, Mistakes Were Made is a jaunty, juicy laugh-out-loud comedy that would simply be a mistake to miss.

The world premiere of Mistakes Were Made concludes its limited run at the very intimate 75-seat A Red Orchid Theatre on October 23. Another production of Mistakes Were Made will open at Connecticut's Hartford Stage October 29.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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