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'MISTAKES WERE MADE' A Master Class in Solo(ish) Performance

You'll laugh, you'll sweat, and you'll laugh some more.  That's practically a guarantee (from me to you) at A Red Orchid's world premiere of Craig Wright's MISTAKES WERE MADE.  With a knack for quick wit and bittersweet pathos, Wright, an Emmy nominated writer from SIX FEET UNDER's heyday, brings his almost one-person-play to A Red Orchid's wildly intimate space.  Intimate to the point of actually walking across Tom Burch's insanely detailed set to reach house left.

MISTAKES WERE MADE focuses on fading Broadway producer Felix Artifex (Michael Shannon) juggling multiple phone calls and receptionary interruptions from Esther (Mierka Girten, who offers moments of both relaxation and heightened stress) during a real-time afternoon in Manhattan.  After a string of revivials -THE ZOO STORY starring Corey Feldman and STREETCAR in Roseanne Barr- Felix's desire to bring his first world premiere to the Great White Way has nearly come to fruition.  His vehicle to Broadway gold is a sprawling French Revolution drama (also titled "Mistakes Were Made") written by a Theatrical Nobody starring (hopefully) Hollywood's Biggest Star.  What unfolds in Fefix's cluttered office is a frantic hour-and-forty-five-minutes of pitches, negotiations, demands, & the occasional respite along side a fish tank.

Shannon, A Red Orchid's founding ensemble member, plays Artifex with unbelievable dedication, wild sporadic intensity, and the kind of thoughtful "charm" only a Broadway producer can muster.  Fittingly nominated for an Academy Award in Sam MendesREVOLUTIONARY ROAD and a Jefferson Award in Steppenwolf's THE PILLOWMAN, Shannon's skills are apparent the moment MISTAKES begins.  Playing a character obviously older than his own age, Shannon manages to treat each of the 6+ phone call characters (all of which we do not hear) with a distinct and focused demeanor, allowing specific insights into who they are, the kind of businessman he is (think a less smarmy Max Bialystock), and how, exactly, a mammoth play like "Mistakes Were Made" gets, well, made.

The one questionable aspect of Wright's script comes when an underwritten sheep subplot floods Felix's receiver.  How the Middle East and the US Army got thrown into Felix's life is slightly unclear, but as the heat's rising, Shannon balances this dilemma amidst surrounding pressures like a pro.  Felix's world, constructed by Burch and transitionally lit by Matt Gawryk -shiftless in its design- reveals secret gems as the evening progresses towards its impending deadline.  Will the show ever get made? lingers claustrophobically, like Burch's set, over Felix's head.

MISTAKES WERE MADE is a two-person play written within one-man comedic monologue.  Or maybe it's the other way around.  Regardless, director Dexter Bullard has fashioNed Wright's world premiere into a steady-paced and impeccably acted collaboration between A Red Orchid, Shannon, Girten, and the cleverly used Sam Deutsch.

Production photo of Michael Shannon by Michael Brosilow.

MISTAKES WERE MADE runs now through October 18, 2009.  To purchase tickets, call A Red Orchid's box office at (312) 943-8722, buy tickets on-line at www.aredorchidtheatre.org, or stop by A Red Orchid's box office, 1531 N. Wells Chicago, IL 60610-7752.


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From This Author William Panek