Received its world premiere production in 2009 at A Red Orchid in Chicago and at Hartford Stage in Connecticut. New York premiere in November 2010 at Barrow Street Theatre.
Felix Artifex (a producer) Michael Shannon
Esther (secretary to Mr. Artifex) Mierka Girten
Puppeter (koi fish) Sam Deutsch
Director: Dexter Bullard
Set Design: Tom Burch
Costume Design: Tif Bullard
Lighting Design: Keith Parham
Sound Design: Joseph Fosco
Hair and Makeup Design: Nan Zabriskie
Stage Manager: Richard A. Hodge
Publication: Wright, Craig. Mistakes Were Made. Dramatists Play Service, 2011. Drama Library PS3573. R5322 M57 2011
Setting: An office in the present.
Okay, so—okay, so—fine— so you tell me, Johnny, so, then, no, you tell me, who is the star of the French Revolution if King Louis is not the star?
Genre/Style: Comedy. See previous post (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity)about how I don’t find most stage comedies very funny. This would be an example. It’s amusing in parts, but the structure, a one-man show where said man spends most of his time on the phone, becomes tiring very quickly. That said, there are some very funny moments, they’re just few and far between, and a lot would depend on the particular actor playing the part. Also, given that the play first premiered in 2009 and contains numerous contemporary references, it feels curiously old-fashioned. Wouldn’t a high-powered producer do more of his work on a smartphone these days? I can imagine someone fielding texts and tweets, but not dealing with ten land lines.
Plot: A Broadway producer is frantically trying to seal the deal with a big star, financial backers, theatre owners, and the playwright of a play about the French Revolution called Mistakes Were Made.
Representative Monologues: Note: Although Felix’s secretary is a character in the play, she is only seen in silhouette and her lines are negligible. The play is closer to a one-man play than a true two-hander, so there are many monologue opportunities. (Long monologues contain the first few lines and the last few lines; please consult the published text for the monologue in its entirety.)
p.16: Felix is trying to convince the playwright, Steven, to make the changes to his play suggested by a star Felix is trying to get to commit to the play.
Steven, here’s the deal: life is unbearable and short.
(Clarifying) Yes, life is unbearable and short and people want to be entertained.
Meanwhile, you’re in the Heartland, with your wife and kid, working your day job, but getting ideas, which is what I love about you. You’ve got your cute little family, your ten thousand things, your grocery lists, strollers, your torn-up floors, but you’re sitting there thinking, “Maybe the French Revolution would be fun to put on stage! [Lines cut]
[Lines cut] And me, Steven, little me, I’m sitting here in New York City, the hub of the Western World, with the razor-sharp bottom of this whole pyramid resting on my eyeball, you know, I’ve got all these myriad vectors, Steven, bearing down on my little watery eyeball, I’m sitting here seeing all these forces at work, and all I’m doing, kid, all I’m doing all day long, is trying like hell to do whatever I can to draw all these disparate, tragic, lovely forces together because for me, Steven, poor sucker that I am, this is my curse, there’s no greatest pleasure in life I can imagine right now than to make your play happen on stage!
p.36–37: Felix finds out the owner of the theater where he hopes to put on the play has pulled his slot.
Oscar, I was just about to call you!
It sure as hell is my slot, Oscar—what show?
(The phone rings.)
No, you’re not.
NO, you’re not doing a musical version of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Because, Oscar, it’s the worst idea in the history of Western Civilization.
You have to ask? Because Atticus Finch is not a singing character, Oscar. He’s not a character who can be made to credibly sing, it’d be like watching an—anteater stand up and sing! Gregory Peck shut the door on this idea 50 years ago!
You never sat down with Miley Cyrus. That’s a lie.
And Billy Ray? Really? For Atticus?
Wow! Another lie! I love this game!
Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism: (Note: article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)
Dziemianowicz, J. (2010, Nov 17). ‘Mistakes’ misses its calling. New York Daily News.
Isherwood, C. (2010, Nov 16). A producer, his telephone and desperation. New York Times.
Plemmons, C. (2009, Nov 13). ‘Mistakes were made:’ hartford stage saddled with been there, done that comedy. The News — Times.
Rizzo, F., & rizzo@courantcom. (2009, Nov 08). PLAYWRIGHT HAS FEET ON TERRA FIRMA, HEAD IN COSMOS. Hartford Courant.