By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Updated November 14, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST
Ari Mintz

Michael Shannon has practically built a career on intimidating audiences, from his stage roles in Tracy Letts’ Bug and Killer Joe to his Oscar-nominated turn as a mental patient in Revolutionary Road. Now, with Craig Wright’s virtual one-man show Mistakes Were Made, he’s added another crazy-eye-guy role to his oeuvre: two-bit theatrical producer Felix Artifex.

Felix is a sort of Max Bialystock-like shyster with a David Mamet mouth who produces shows like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Roseanne Barr and Erik Estrada. And now that he?s found a new American play by an unknown Heartland-dwelling writer — about the French Revolution — he’ll do anything to get it on stage. In this case, ”anything” includes bagging a big-name movie star to headline the show, strong-arming the corn-fed playwright into rewriting the Revolution, berating agents (he calls one ”a retarded farm girl”), playing everyone against each other, and investing in an extremely shady ”sheep-dipping” venture with an unseen Belgian woman named Annika Van de Velde.

The whole thing is a preposterous, hilarious tour-de-force for Shannon, who couldn’t ask for a better vehicle to highlight his oft-unseen comic prowess. It’s also an excuse for Wright — a TV vet who’s written for and/or produced shows like Six Feet Under, Lost, Brothers & Sisters, and Dirty Sexy Money — to display his showbiz savvy. ”I don’t want to hear the details,” Shannon screams into the phone at one point. ”Details are a gateway drug.” As it happens, Shannon delivers about 95 percent of his lines into a telephone receiver — no easy task for an actor. Most of the rest are delivered to Denise, Felix’s pudgy puppet goldfish. As Felix himself says while desperately pitching his project, ”I know it strains credulity, but this is theater, right, this is the land we love.” By the end of Mistakes Were Made, you’ll be ready to buy just about anything Shannon and Wright want to sell you. Except, perhaps, a truckload of sheep. B+

(Tickets: or 212-868-4444)