By Jordan Wright (Photo/Margot Schulman)
Cal Chandler, son of successful politician Sen. Reed Chandler, is not exactly a model of statesmanship. He’s your typical privileged Yale grad: a pot smoking, ex-Vietnam vet raised in a political family.
Sound familiar? It’s just the first of many of parallels between Signature Theatre’s production of “The Fix” and the American political landscape. When Cal’s father dies in flagrante delicto amid a re-election campaign, his mother and uncle, the family’s political advisor Grahame Chandler (Lawrence Redmond), plot a course to groom young Cal to take his place. And do they ever plot.
Move over Shakespeare. There’s a new Lady Macbeth in town and her name is Violet Chandler. To give you some idea, the show’s intro is “Let the Games Begin,” which trumpets, “These are the games, the tools and the tricks.”
As Violet and Grahame ply their considerable savvy to transform the reluctant scion into a model of respectability, we have a front row seat to the backroom wheeling and dealing of a political campaign, including a nefarious mobster, Anthony Gliardi, played with distinction by Dan Manning. The ever-watchful Grahame, making sure Cal won’t be caught up by reporters’ probing queries, warns the budding pol, “You must limit yourself to three topics — the economy, crime and taxes.”
“The Fix” is a scrumptious concoction of jealousy, scandal and infidelity — Will Gartshore, as Violet’s doomed lover, Bobby “Cracker” Barrel is terrific — served up with a side of moral depravity, deceit and the delightful pleasure of deja vu and schadenfreude all in the same soup. Yes, we know what’s going to happen, and no, we still can’t turn away.
Mark Evans’ depiction of Cal is spectacular — a super sexy, blindingly handsome, breath-taking dancer and jaw-dropping singer who earned his street cred in “The Book of Mormon.” As the lead, Evans commands much of the attention in this pivotal role and he does not disappoint, nor does veteran performer Bobby Smith as Cal’s late father who returns from the grave to offer advice to his wayward son.
The second act brings Smith and Redmond together as Harvard alums sporting striped suits and doing a mean soft shoe in a hilarious vaudeville-style skit that incorporates crutches as props. After all, isn’t politics just show business with money and a message?
Christine Sherrill lends an alluring villainy to Violet, a woman who thrives on perks and power. In “Spin,” a drunken self-examination solo at a symbolically chosen vanity table, she belts out a heart-stopping message that defines her years stumping with her husband on campaign trails, “It’s a rough ride on the back roads. You give it spin.”
“The Fix” gives us all the elements of a smash hit with book and lyrics by John Dempsey, music by Dana P. Rowe and direction by Eric Schaeffer. Matthew Gardiner crafts the choreography and it is impressive, as is the eight-piece orchestra under Jon Kalbfleisch. Setting the stage are the combined efforts of Misha Kachman’s scenic design and Hannah Marsh’s clever projection design of incorporating TV screens with news anchors that report on Cal’s soaring career from councilman to governor.