craig wright

Theater Review: Michael Mendelson claws through ‘Mistakes Were Made,’ sharply

In Artists Repertory Theatre's production of Craig Wright's play about an almost-play, the actor shines

Michael Mendelson in Craig Wright's "Mistakes Were Made" at Artists Repertory Theatre/Owen Carey

Michael Mendelson in Craig Wright’s “Mistakes Were Made” at Artists Repertory Theatre/Owen Carey

Felix Artifex spends most of “Mistakes Were Made” at his desk facing a big aquarium that barely encompasses an orange and white koi named Denise. He wears a phone headset sometimes, but mostly he jabs at his phone and the intercom that connects him to Esther, his receptionist.

The news that lights up his phone console is not good. Sure, movie star Johnny Bledsoe is interested in committing to the French Revolution play by an unknown playwright he’s trying to launch on Broadway, but Johnny has “an idea” for the script that means junking the whole thing. And frankly, no Johnny, no Broadway. And yeah, the sheep convoy in some unnamed Middle Eastern land is on the road, part of Felix’s Byzantine funding scheme, but it’s surrounded by rebels determined to make a point. The playwright? Guess what he thinks about Johnny’s suggestions.

And Esther keeps screaming at him to stop feeding the fish.

It’s going to take some fast talking to get out of this mess with dreams, dignity and cash flow intact, and Felix, played by Michael Mendelson in Artists Repertory Theatre’s new production of Craig Wright’s play, is ready for action, in his brown suit and vest and spiffy bow tie, his little white pills, his posters of past productions on the wall (Van Damme in “Macbeth”!), and Denise, well-fed Denise, slowly testing the edges of her universe as Felix tests the edges of his.

The role tests an actor’s skills: He speed-talks boatloads of lines and assumes many attitudes and, um, positions as he attempts to get his play on the boards. He must go from pitiful begging to all-out verbal assault as the winds and the phone calls change. Mendelson is terrific at it, modulating a nasal accent and dancing an expressive choreography around that desk, twisting one way and then the other. It’s great fun to watch, a fine actor pushed by a difficult assignment.

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