Mistakes Were Made (written Craig Wright, directed by Stephanie McKenna, Emma McQueen & Nir Guzinski) was a frustration comedy about Felix Artifex’s struggle to put “Mistakes Were Made,” a play about the French Revolution, on Broadway.
The writing was quick, witty and engaging, and Donald Rees was the perfect actor to bring it to life. Where the dialogue got flamboyant, he stayed grounded in desperation, and he didn’t once miss a beat in his comedic timing. The witty and pitiful Felix had all the sick charm of a reborn Basil Fawlty (from the British comedy Fawlty Towers). One of the challenges of the role was that most of the dialogue was with people on the phone who the audience couldn’t hear, but Donald had no problem keeping the energy up. He rolled from staccatos of “Yeah… uhuh… yeah…” to long lounging metaphors, and swung from the mood swings with great prowess.
Stephanie Coco Palermo captured every delightful cliché in Esther, Donald’s secretary. Though she only had a line here and there, her presence was very memorable. I can still hear that deep, nasal drawl of “Mr. Artifex, are you feeding that fish?” As for that fish, being a complete sucker for a puppet of any kind, I squealed when Denise the koi floated into view from her tank. This weird little addition was perfectly integrated and did not feel like an interruption or a distraction.
But that ending. First, I have to warn you that in the next paragraph, I’m going to get right down and dirty with the spoilers. Second, I have to admit, I took the ending very personally. Because really, how could you possibly justify ruining my evening? I was having a good time, and then you tore my heart out and stomped on it. And for what? To prove you are capable of making comedy turn to tragedy at the drop of a hat? Big deal. To say something about the cruel humour of existence? Been said before. To provide a surprise twist ending? Fine, but was it really worth killing off ten men and a koi fish for your twist, not to mention making me cry? Craig Wright, you brilliant, terrible man, you slay me.
Mistakes were made was hilarious and tragic, and full of vibrant talent. If you’re a sensitive soul like me, though, I would advise preparing for that depressing ending by stocking up on ice cream and cognac before going to see it.
Mistakes were Made is at the Main Line Theatre (3997 St. Laurent) on Aug 20-24, Aug 27-30 at 8 p.m. and Aug 30 at 4 p.m. $12/10