Mistakes Were Made | 8.18 – 9.3.11

Joe Hanrahan and The Midnight Company present the story of Felix Artifex as he tries to save one play, retrieve an ex-wife, and spare the lives of one thousand goats.

 

 

Felix Artifex (brought to full, shabby life by Joe Hanrahan) is a New York producer and assembler of second-rate dreams who is responsible for putting B-list actors in C-list productions. As evidence of this, one poster on the set proclaimed, "William Shatner in LEAR with Pauly Shore as his fool." He does this with a tortured finesse that is part huckster and part paternal grace. 

Mistakes Were Made is the vehicle that is going to change all that for Felix. It is the play with big concepts about subject matter (The French Revolution) that Felix does not understand, yet sees as a ticket away from schlock and an opportunity to show his estranged ex-wife that he has acknowledged and changed his ways. But, like his loose grasp of the play, Felix proves time and again that his ability to make things happen often ignores the more human needs we all have. Even his last name, bestowed upon him by Craig Wright, the play’s author, is an ancient Latin word with the double meaning of artist and craftsman: art versus commerce.

During the tightly woven, intermission-less 90 minutes of the Midnight Company’s production, we watch Felix as he tries to pull together the pieces that will make this play happen, win back his ex-wife and save the lives of drivers transporting a thousand goats to a dipping facility in the Middle East. He does this using a phone with ten lines or more (at least that is where I lost count). For nearly the entirety of the play, Felix works the phone like a wizard juggling directors, pampered movie stars, the play’s tortured writer, the goat transporters, various well-armed rebels threatening the goat transporters, and the mercenaries who are supposed to be saving them.

It seems that all of humanity is on the rolodex of Felix’s unflappable assistant, Esther (played by Emily Piro), who seems both Artifex’s enabler and foil.The only person she seems to be unable to connect him to is the person he truly wants: Felix’s estranged ex-wife, Dolores. Despite all the verbal acrobatics he goes through to bring off the new production, this "mistake" is the one Felix would truly like to fix. Mistakes Were Made, which was directed by The Midnight Company’s Associate Director Sarah Whitney, moves at a fast pace as we watch Felix’s dreams of bringing the play to the stage, reuniting with Dolores, and fixing the goat situation in the Middle East all come to disaster.

None of the complicated and often hilarious scenarios could have possibly come together without the talents of Joe Hanrahan, who works the phone and the imaginary conversations with a depth that makes the far-fetched setup appear quite believable. And while Felix is perhaps unethical, bossy, and far too willing to sacrifice art for commerce, Hanrahan never lets the audience forget the humanity and loss the man is harboring deep inside. Joe Hanrahan appears regularly on various stages around St. Louis, and visually he often looks very similar: a middle-aged, going-to-seed guy with  disheveled hair and glasses balanced precariously on his nose. But, as with many great character actors, he seems to inhabit his characters as if they have lived inside him for many years. In Mistakes Were Made, Hanrahan brings to life a souless man who will say and do anything to get his shows onstage—but what Mistakes Were Made reveals is that line between art and commerce and how painfully sharp it can be.

This was our first visit to see a show at the Krazberg Center, which is in the beautifully reimagined Woolworth in Grand Center. It shares building space with the Boys and Girls Club and the Craft Alliance. My only complaint about this addition to local theater venues is that they should not sell potato chips to the audience (or allow them into the theater). It was as if the couple in the second row snacking on chips was vying for attention with the rebels in the Middle East…and he was winning.

Mistakes Were Made
, directed by Sarah Whitney and starring Joe Hanrahan and Emily Piro, runs through September 3, with shows on Thursdays and Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 7 and 9 p.m. The show is at The Kranzberg Center, 501 North Grand. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and seniors, and can be obtained by calling 314-487-5305 to make reservations. Seating is limited. Visit the Midnight Company website for more information at www.midnightcompany.com.

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