Anxiety is never funnier than when ‘Mistakes Were Made’
By Diana Saenger
One man’s obsession for staging a show about The French Revolution soon turns into a frenzied mania that just might be his undoing in “Mistakes Were Made,” having its West Coast premiere at Cygnet Theatre through Oct. 21.
Under the direction of Shana Wride, San Diego-based actor Phil Johnson tackles Craig Wright’s zany script. It’s a challenge, but Johnson has the skills to pull it off. His credits include Broadway’s “Les Miserables,” touring productions of “Les Miz” and “Miss Saigon,” “Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” and many more.
His work as a standup comedian, roles in films and TV, as well as his experience in writing, producing and heading comedy shows all across the country (including his original solo plays, like “Say Cheese”), have earned Johnson awards and recognition. All of which have helped him identify with this character.
“Felix isn’t very far from me,” Johnson said. “I think every performer ends up chasing after things. Because acting is a weird life, you end up approaching things as a little bit of your own personal salesman.
“This play is a funny look at obsession from an American point of view, and how far some will go to get that one thing they really want.”
Because Felix is having difficulty in getting what he wants, he goes out on a limb and is in danger of falling. “He’s a theater producer so how big a consequence can he get into?” Johnson said. “But Felix gets into big trouble when he becomes so desperate he attempts to raise money overseas.”
Getting in over one’s head and reaching desperate measures is something today’s audiences can relate to.
“Exactly. Felix is very much a person of today,” Johnson said. “We’re all on smart phones and finding ways to jam more work into every crevice of our lives. It’s a tough thing to look at your own life and ask, ‘when is it really enough?’ Felix works hard and makes work the absolute ultimate of his life to the detriment of everything else around him.”
Misguided ambition has dire consequences as Felix eventually discovers. But can he rebound?
“The story gets complicated, but everything Felix does, he feels justified in doing,” Johnson said. “He ends up losing everything that’s important to him, including his family.”
A lot of humor and a character with a good heart is what Johnson found intriguing about this story. “Because it’s based on a theatrical production, it has very funny elements to laugh at like actors, producers, movie stars, and divas.
“I think Felix is smart and essentially a sweet guy. He’s not doing this for the money. He’s doing it for his self-respect and for something he wants very badly – to have a play on Broadway.
“The story is not cliché at all. Felix is his own creation; a smart New Yorker-type, who is also a feeling and caring fellow, and that’s what gets him into trouble sometimes. But we care for him, too, and when he falls, we fall with him.”