Even the fish is funny in ‘Mistakes Were Made’

If you go

■ What: ‘Mistakes Were Made’

■ When: Matinees, evenings to Oct. 21

■ Where: Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town

■ Tickets: $29-$54

■ Box Office: (619) 337-1525

■ Website:

By Diana Saenger

Well staged, short, and thoroughly entertaining, “Mistakes Were Made” is a delightful night at the theater.

The first thing patrons will relate to when taking their seats for Cygnet Theatre’s West Coast premiere of the comedy is the set. It features a cluttered desk, papers strewn across the floor, and boxes of stuff in corners that resemble our own offices and reminds us of how overworked we all are.

But that’s an understate- ment for Felix Artifex, a theat- rical agent who has made so many commitments he can’t keep that he’s in deep trouble.

First, he’s working with Playwright Steven and telling him on the phone how much he likes and wants to produce his new play. While on another line at the same time, Felix is courting actor Johnny, who is interested in the play — but only if most of it is rewritten to his specifications. Felix entices him by saying, “I know this could be your ‘Street Car.’”

Felix puts each one on hold as he appeases the other with what he wants to

hear. But that’s the least of Felix’s problems. His secre- tary, Esther (Jacque Wilke), is screening calls to be answered every few minutes. To help finance a play about the French Revolution, titled “Mistakes Were Made,” Felix makes a deal with financers in the Middle East. When he learns through one of the calls that 1,000 sheep with trucks and drivers have been shanghaied because monies promised were not delivered, Felix begins to unravel. He’s told all the sheep may die.

No stranger to local theatergoers, Phil Johnson (“Les Miserables,” “Putnam County Spelling Bee”) takes on the zany character of Felix. He rants, he screams ... but always with humor, fidgeting like a kindergartener on his first day at school. From his constant flailing back in his chair to his curled-up fingers as if he’s containing a punch for someone, there isn’t a body part that Johnson doesn’t bring into play.

Even the way Felix pops another pill from a prescription bottle while putting someone else on hold is funny. As the pressure increases with each phone call, even banging the phone on the table doesn’t help. He’s drowning and no one is buying what he’s offering.

He tells one of his callers, “Life is unbearable and short and everyone wants to be entertained.” The line seems thrown in, but gets laughs just by the way Johnson delivers it.

Most amusing is Felix’s therapy session with a large goldfish in a tank, which he nervously feeds while he talks. Apparently, he’s not supposed to feed the fish as reminded by Esther every minute.

One of the funniest moments comes when Felix takes out his frustration with a Hollywood starlet on a small rag doll. You must see it to believe it.