Felix Artiflex goes on and on and on. He talks continuously. He talks endlessly. He talks ad nauseam. He talks as if his life depends on getting the words out, which in a figurative way, it does.
Felix wants to produce a meaningful play after a lifetime of producing plays that were more disposable tissues in allergy season.
Felix calls his career "filling up theaters with moldy chestnuts and two-bit stars" but still he has an indefatigable spirit that is more than willing even if the flesh around him remains reflexively weak.
Felix, we learn watching him work the phone in his firetrap of an office, wants to produce a play called "Mistakes Were Made" about the French Revolution, with a cast of 50.
As unlikely a project as that might be, Felix has the hottest movie actor on the planet, Johnny Bledsoe, interested. Felix tells Johnny it could be his "Streetcar," as in the the play that made Marlon Brando a household name of sorts. Brando was a great actor back never mind. It's not clear if we should think Johnny Bledsoe stands in for a slumming Johnny Depp, a career-changing Robert Pattinson, or purely innocuous Ryan Gosling. It really doesn't matter, because as much as we know it's never going to happen, the beauty of Felix is that he believes it can. He just needs to talk Johnny Bledsoe into it.
But Johnny has a couple "requests," such as: Could the character he wants to play be written in because he doesn't exist yet? So Felix needs to talk the playwright into changing the script also not going to happen. Felix is raising money for this venture with a shady deal involving sheep in some Third World country, and that's about to go up in smoke, literally. That would be Messrs. Cosetta, Palpetone, and Bandolini on lines four, five and six. Felix doesn't want to take these calls, but does.
Again and again he takes the calls, which brings us to the downside of "Mistakes Were Made." For a great deal of the play, Eric Wheeler's Felix is little more than a hamster on a wheel in a cage, working extremely hard and getting nowhere fast. Yet for a while we watch, quite fascinated.
None of this would be possible with a less-formidable talent than Wheeler as Felix. Wheeler creates an extraordinary world within Felix, which he communicates to the audience. Most of it plays quite comically, but there's also visceral desperation in Wheeler/ Felix as he contorts his body, his heart and his soul into the copious words he is never short of.
Nor would it be as watchable with a less-astute director than Carolyn Howarth at the helm understanding that Wheeler needs to make it all as real and honest as possible. Wheeler and Howarth also understand that Felix must be as broad as possible, which is not to say flat and superficial, but full of a wide range of emotions and feeling.
Wright doesn't give Felix much of this dimension until it's very nearly too late. While it's surely the experienced playwright's plan, he has for 80 minutes written Felix into a rather tight corner, and it's a lot to ask of everyone to suddenly recalibrate our sense of who Felix is in the last 10 minutes of the play. But Wheeler's commitment reinforces Felix's desire, and he'll pick up the phone one more time.
MISTAKES WERE MADE
★ ★ ★ 1/2
What: Capital Stage presents the Sacramento premiere of Craig Wright's comedy starring Eric Wheeler.
Where: 2215 J St., Sacramento
When: Continues at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16. Special matinee this Saturday. No performance Thanksgiving Day.
Information: (916) 995-5464, www.capstage.org
Running time: 95 minutes; no intermission