Sex, drugs and politics take center stage in the Proscenium Players’ production of the musical The Fix. With presidential candidates already receiving nonstop media coverage and with scandals coming out of Washington with increased frequency, this political satire comes at just the right time.
The musical focuses on the son of a prominent political family. The title resounds on several levels: A wild young man is “fixed up” to be a politician while he learns that the glamorous world of politics can bring fame and control that can be as potent as any drug “fix.”
The play opens when a promising presidential candidate, Reed Chandler (Chris Taylor), has a heart attack while having sex with his mistress. His overly ambitious wife, Violet (Catherine Cook), vows that if she can’t be the wife of the president, then she’ll be the mother of one. With the help of her brother-in-law, Grahame (Ray Finnegan), Violet begins preparing her son, Cal (Fred Steinke), to enter a life of politics. Cal, who is more interested in playing three chords on his guitar, doing drugs and trying to sleep with the maids, soon finds himself in the army. Shortly thereafter, he is pushed into marriage with a girl picked by his mother and finds himself running for city council—his first stop on the way to surefire national political success.
The Fix offers audiences timely political commentary and many entertaining moments. In one interesting scene, Violet and Grahame dress their young candidate in the perfect American look and coach him to stick to three safe subjects: the economy, crime and taxes. After Cal wins his first election, his Uncle Grahame tells him, “We couldn’t have won this race without you.” Their schemes call to mind the behind-the-scenes players of today’s politics and the stuffed shirts who serve as their fronts.
As Cal, Fred Steinke’s energetic and charismatic presence anchors the show. He evolves from an irresponsible kid to a reckless politician and, finally, to a thoughtful man. As Cal’s stripper-mistress Tina McCoy, Rhonda Keen is both seductive and sincere. Like Steinke, Keen allows her character to evolve, endowing Tina with more emotional complexity than just a nightclub stereotype.
First produced in 1997, The Fix is a collaboration between writer John Dempsey and composer Dana P. Rowe, whose other works include Zombie Prom and The Witches of Eastwick. The first act, with its focus on Cal’s rise to power, is more tightly constructed, while the second is somewhat scattered, delving into other past family intrigues.
Director Jeff Whitt keeps the ensemble moving all over the stage as the story progresses rapidly through time and place. Accompanied by a five-piece band, the show offers lively musical numbers, although some of the ensemble pieces don’t stand out.
I couldn’t help but feel that The Fix just doesn’t go far enough. While intended to be a sharp, satirical take on the modern political scene, the story is all too real. Politicians groomed for the pulpit, repeating the same tired phrases, neck-deep in shady deals, drug addictions and sex scandals—unfortunately, these are so common now that they’re hardly newsworthy. It’s a difficult time for satire in America’s current political environment—sometimes truth can be stranger and much more ridiculous than fiction.
Re “Wide awake” (Theater, Feb. 15): A review for Brüka Theatre’s The Pillowman incorrectly stated its show time. It begins at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22, 23, 24 and March 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 and at 2 p.m. on March 4.