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The Fix – Let the Games Begin – Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
August 25, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times

Christine Sherrill (Violet Chandler), and Mark Evans (Cal Chandler). Photo by Christopher Mueller

Christine Sherrill (Violet Chandler), and Mark Evans (Cal Chandler). Photo by Christopher Mueller

Cal Chandler, son of successful politician, Senator Reed Chandler, is not exactly a model of statesmanship.  He’s your typical privileged Yale grad and pot-smoking, ex-Vietnam vet raised in a political family.  Sound familiar?  It’s just the first of many of the plot’s parallels to our real American political landscape.  When Cal’s father dies in flagrante delicto before re-election, 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 by Dan Manning with distinction.  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 déjà vu and schadenfreude all in the same soup.  Oh, yes, we know what’s going to happen, and no, we still can’t turn away.

Mark Evans (Cal Chandler). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Mark Evans (Cal Chandler). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Mark Evans, as Cal, is spectacular – a super sexy, blindingly handsome, ripped-bodied (he strips to his skivvies in the first act), breathtaking 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.  Act Two brings Smith and Redmond together as Harvard alums sporting satin-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.”

Bobby Smith (Senator Reed Chandler), Christine Sherrill (Violet Chandler), and Lawrence Redmond (Grahame Chandler). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Bobby Smith (Senator Reed Chandler), Christine Sherrill (Violet Chandler), and Lawrence Redmond (Grahame Chandler). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

The Fix gives us all the elements of a smash hit with book & lyrics by John Dempsey, music by Dana P. Rowe and direction by Eric SchaefferMatthew Gardiner crafts the choreography and it is impressive, as is the eight-piece orchestra (sounds like eighteen) 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.

Highly recommended.

Through September 20th in the MAX at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org

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