Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mistakes Were Made **

Michael Shannon seems to thrive at the Barrow Street Theatre. First in "Bug," then in "Our Town," and now in Craig Wright's new comedy, Shannon grabs your attention and doesn't let go. "Mistakes Were Made" is the title of a play about the French Revolution by a new playwright that small-time producer Felix Artifex (Shannon) is trying to bring to New York. During the play's 90-minutes, his plans spectacularly unravel in a series of phone calls from a Hollywood star who would like the play rewritten for him, the unwilling playwright, his agent, the drivers of a 10-truck convoy of sheep in Iraq (don't ask!) and various other nemeses who lead Felix to a meltdown. Except for messages from Felix's secretary (Mierka Girten) and a few one-way conversations with his overfed pet fish (controlled by puppeteer Sam Deutsch), Felix's half of the phone calls is the whole play. The fish is apt because making fun of show biz types is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. A brief effort near the end to supply Felix with a back story that would make his behavior more comprehensible mostly misfires. The humor wore thin for me, but Shannon's performance was dazzling. Dexter Bullard directed.

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