‘Mistakes Were Made’ Produces Lots of Laughs

(Left to right) Gregg Berger, Paul Linke and Kyle Heffner play three television writers and friends in ‘Mistakes Were Made.’

An Original Play by Palisadian Jerry Mayer

If one of a playwright’s first writing jobs was on the Jonathan Winters television show, you know the play “Mistakes Were Made: Coulda – Woulda – Shouda” is going to have lots of laughs.

Pacific Palisades resident and playwright Jerry Mayer has done just that with this, his 10th original play, at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

The production is fun, entertaining and definitely a throw back to comedies that have punch lines that aren’t dependent on foul or shocking language.

The plot revolves around three aged television writers who 15 years prior had gotten into a fight, but now one has decided the spat has lasted long enough and wants the three to be friends again.

Mayer, who has written for M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Facts of Life (where he was executive producer) and five of Mitzi Gaynor’s TV Specials, certainly knows comedy and knows how to write a joke. This show has many laugh-out-loud moments.

Starting with the actors: this is truly an ensemble piece and all are good. The six have impressive television, movie and play experience, and it shows in their work.

The three friends, Jeff Cohen (played by Gregg Berger), Mel Friedman (Kyle Heffner) and Dick Turner (Paul Linke), are believable and able to put nuance and feelings into a comedy – not always easy.

Their interaction is like a comfortable group of friends you would enjoy spending a few hours with every week as they zing jokes, while working out the mistakes and emotions of their past.

Turner, after receiving advice from his two friends, reaches out to his son in a different way and the result is emotional. Actor Linke brought tears to the eyes of some audience members.

The three men are on the stage for the entire show, which is 75 minutes long (no intermission).

Doing double and triple duty, and even more, is actor Matt Fowler, who plays Charlie, Turner’s son, and also the three older men’s characters when they were younger.

Palisades actress Rachel Galper is wonderfully entertaining. She plays the wife for two of the men, and then the younger version of all three wives. Sounds confusing? It’s not. When one of the “old” guys talks about his youth, the spotlight is focused on the new actors, providing a throwback to the past.

Equally charming is Christine Joelle, who plays a girlfriend, a producer, an actress, a wife and a daughter-in-law.

Director Chris DeCarlo, who is a founding member of Actors’ Repertory Theater and who just completed nine years as a member of the Santa Monica Arts Commission, has kept this production light, with just the right tone.

James Cooper (lighting, set and video projections) is able to change the location simply by changing the lighting and the images on the walls.

Although the play takes place in the Kibbitz Room of Canter’s Deli (where else would old-time comedians go?) on Fairfax, there are also living rooms, restaurants and offices – and all are designed to help switch the location and the characters.

Mayer’s plays have appeared Off Broadway and five of them are currently in the Samuel French catalogue. Since Mayer is a Palisadian (his wife is Emily Bettman Mayer), it would be nice if Theatre Palisades could offer one of his comedies next season.

The play is Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. through June 30 at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St. Tickets are $35, and reservations are necessary. Call (310) 394-9779, ext. 1 or online at SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com/mistakes.html.

Rachel Galper and Matt Fowler juggle several roles in Jerry Mayer’s original play.

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