1812 Productions renews its association with talented playwright Craig Wright for the company’s season-opener, Mistakes Were Made. Sadly, Wright’s comedy was disappointing.
Basically a solo play (a second character is often heard but only briefly appears), the story focuses on small-time theater producer Felix Artifex (Scott Greer in a Herculean performance). After struggling for years producing pointless crap in off-Broadway houses, Artifex gets his hands on what he believes is a major new play from an unheralded playwright. Sensing both a financial opportunity and a chance to produce a work of artistic significance, Artifex spends an afternoon working the phone in a desperate attempt to bring the play to Broadway. The obstacles he encounters include a vain Hollywood actor, a playwright unwilling to compromise his artistic integrity, a panic-stricken theater owner, a pushy agent, a group of Italian sheepherders being held at gunpoint by a band of political extremists, a mysterious mercenary, a hyper secretary, and one severely bloated goldfish. It’s enough to make Felix’s head spin around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
However, the humor has no lofty aims. In attempting to show the absurdities of getting a play produced today, Wright’s script is so implausible that we eventually lose interest.
Thankfully, Greer is on hand, and his immense talent is the sole reason to see the production. Sweating profusely as he punches the buttons on his phone with mounting fury, Greer’s performance is as physically demanding and emotionally draining as any in recent memory. His Felix has elements of Max Bialystock (the unethical producer in the blockbuster musical The Producers ) but in Greer’s portrayal Felix isn’t your average cynical capitalist. “I’m just someone who tries to do what’s right for other people,” he explains. He says this is the context of trying to close a deal, but his humanism is more than a negotiating tool. For all his bluster and bravado, Greer’s Felix is an idealistic man who believes in the power of theater to enrich our lives. The play’s optimistic conclusion doesn’t inspire us, but at least Greer’s performance does.
Through Oct. 30. $28-$36. Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey St. 215.592.9560. 1812productions.org