Joe Hanrahan is a man of considerable talent, enough to carry a piece of rather lightweight fluff like "Mistakes Were Made," a long way. In what is basically a one-man show, Hanrahan finds the charm and humor, and the pain, too, in juggling 10 telephone lines while trying to produce a Broadway hit. The play, a Midnight Company production, opened last night at the Kranzberg Theatre and will run through Sept. 3.
Of course, Hanrahan is the founder and artistic director of Midnight, so he is in a position to pick his plays. And he doesn't have to audition, either. Craig Wright's comedy had its premiere in Chicago not quite two years ago, and ran in New York last fall.
With a lot of help from Emily Piro as Esther, an overworked secretary/telephone operator who has a small but vital part and shows an exquisite sense of timing, Hanrahan portrays Felix Artifex, a smarmy producer, desperate to get a break and make it into the big time. He has a script called "Mistakes Were Made," about the French revolution, by an unknown writer. He has a theater, and some money, and he thinks that if he can cast a Hollywood star named Johnny Bledsoe in the lead, his worries will be over. He has 10 phone lines and a lot of people trying to talk to him.
Bledsoe, for example, wants to change his role of King Louis (Artifex cannot remember his number) to be sort of a sidekick to Robespierre. The playwright resists. So does the playwright's agent. Artifex also has invested in some sheep, somewhere in the Middle East, and has a Belgian woman running that part of the operation, but not very well. He's trying to contract for some security forces, and he's being bothered by a lot of people. And he's trying to contact his ex-wife, with some sort of absurd hope that they can get back together.
We all know people who eat when they are nervous or under stress. Artifex, when nervous, feeds a goldfish named Denise, hiding this fact from Esther as if he were a little boy trying to snare an extra cookie.
Sarah Whitney's direction is first-rate, and there are a lot of good gags along the way. Three of the best are waiting on stage -- a poster of William Shatner as King Lear, another of Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan in "My Fair Lady," and a third announcing "A Long Day's Journey Into Night-- on Ice." They put the audience in a good mood even before Hanrahan takes us into a funny fantasy land, which is exactly what the theater is.
"Mistakes Were Made," by the Midnight Company, opened last night at the Kranzberg Theater, to run through Sept. 3