By Craig Wright
Directed by Dexter Bullard
At A Red Orchid Theatre
Double tour de force efforts fuel world premiere
“Life is unbearable and short. And people want to be entertained.” –Felix
Michael Shannon, long a fixture in Chicago theatre and now a film star of note (he received a Oscar nomination for Revolutionary Road), returns to his roots at A Red Orchid Theatre in Craig Wright’s world premiere of Mistakes Were Made. This is a double tour de force–for Craig Wright and Michael Shannon. The 1 hour, 45 minute one-act features a non-stop satire of a lost soul bent on redeeming his life with an original theatrical event.
Shannon plays legendary Theatrical producer Felix Artifex. We see Felix in his shabby office (terrific set design by Tom Burch) as the fast-talking producer tries to cajole, persuade, trick, intimidate, motivate, maneuver, seduce and suggest the Midwest playwright of the epic French Revolution, Mistakes Were Made, to rewrite his play to accommodate a big Hollywood star with whom Felix wants to anchor the production. Felix believes this gargantuan project will be his personal and professional redemption.Felix is tired of remounting old theatrical chestnuts and he believes Mistakes Were Made could be his ‘home run.’
Michael Shannon deftly plays the sharp-tongued producer with a combination of machine-gun speech and physical dexterity seldom witnessed on stage. With most of the dialogue emanating from a series of telephone conversations, Shannon’s facial expressions and body language give hints as to what the other person is saying to him. Playwright Craig Wright gave Shannon a razor-sharp smart script filled with satire, many fabulous descriptions and smart retorts that Shannon nailed to garner both laughter and pathos. The cynical Broadway producer mixes his business sensibilities with his desire manipulate the artistic process.
Felix’s frustrations arise from both the film star and the playwright resisting his ideas. Felix laments how cruel the world is when it just can’t ever give him what he wants. Shannon reaches deep into Felix’s angst as we witness his destruction as his plans crumble despite all his formidable manipulations. Shannon aptly delivers Wright’s snappy dialogue with panache. We see Felix moving from one crisis to another quickly changing tone to woo his caller into his plan.
I can’t remember a finer performance of a terrific script than Shannon and Wright have put together in Mistakes Were Made. None were made in this production. Mierka Girten, as Esther, Felix’s secretary, contributed (mostly off-stage) effectively as her nuanced tone spoke volumes as she announced who was calling on what line. There is a lot going on in Felix’s world and we are fully engaged throughout. Farcical plot twists nicely complicate Felix’s plans. Few actors could sustain the verbiage and the acting out that surely must exhaust Michael Shannon. Come see this gem to appreciate both Wright’s biting play and Shannon’s amazing performance. Mistakes Were Made is anything but.
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells, Chicago, IL, call 312-943-8722, tickets $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3 PM, running time is 1 hour, 45 minutes without intermission.