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Flawless 'Mistakes Were Made' at Carpenter Square

Celebrating their 30th season, Carpenter Square offers a tour-de-force for actor Joe DiBello in the Craig Wright comedy “Mistakes Were Made.” Creatively staged and directed by Courtney DiBello, this nearly two-hour-long, near monolog is by turns farcical, charming, outrageous, and enlightening.

Wright’s play, first performed five years ago in Chicago, revolves around the world of New York City producer Felix Artifex (Joe DiBello) and his co-dependent relationship with his fish, Denise. Felix’s need to constantly feed Denise in exchange for her attention is moderated by the off-stage voice of his intimidating administrative assistant Esther (Ariel Therkiel). Wright has essentially written a traditional drawing room farce in which most of the interaction takes place on the phone—acknowledging a contemporary reality.

Felix, in the process of trying to get a play produced, has phone conversations with the playwright, the agent, the potential director, the big-name star, the many people connected to the unfortunate investment he made in Europe, his therapist, his ex-wife/partner…and then he talks to Denise and occasionally to Esther. This bizarre concoction of interwoven conversations that never quite stop makes for an unlikely but oddly endearing and definitely funny play.

Ariel Therkiel’s Esther is a menacing shadow and threatening voice for much of the show, but she makes an appearance at a critical moment to offer support to her boss. A role with little “acting” on stage is a tremendous challenge and demands great nuance and attention to detail. Therkiel handled the task ably and provided exactly the energy and presence needed for us to grasp the vital nature of her presence in Felix’s life and work.

However, the action of the show and the whole focus of the text belongs to Felix. Joe DiBello, ably directed by Courtney DiBello, used the entire space of Carpenter’s stage to convey the stress, passion, irritability, insanity, distraction, and zany pathology of a New York City theatre producer. The work of getting a play “up on its legs” is complex and more than a little devious; OKC theatre aficionados will find themselves wondering if Carpenter Square’s Artistic Director Rhonda Clark, when she is wearing her “producer” hat, has had similar days. Mr. DiBello managed to convey the whole range of frenetic craziness that is the unenviable work of making the magic of theatre possible.

Making the magic actually happen is the work of the director and her crew, and Ms. DiBello had the support of a great team. Her set design was realized by Ben Hall and Scott Hynes, and it was craftily lit by Jay C. Schardt. There were moments of Felix interacting with a pole lamp that were especially effective—and particularly amusing for those who have worked on stage. In her biographical note, Ms. DiBello also acknowledges the contributions of Rebecca and Chris Link in creating an environment for Denise—a critical element of the set and story.

“Mistakes Were Made” is well worth the investment, especially for those with a love for live theatre. The show runs for two more weekends, through Saturday, July 19, at Carpenter Square Theatre, 800 W. Main Street, Oklahoma City. Make reservations through the website at or call 405-232-6500 to contact the box office.