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Review: Political, personal foibles propel 'The Fix' at ICT

May 03, 2012|By David C. Nichols
  • Alix Korey conspires with Sal Mistretta in "The Fix" at International City Theatre.
Alix Korey conspires with Sal Mistretta in "The Fix" at International… (Carlos Delgado )

It's understandable that International City Theatre would want to snag the West Coast premiere of "The Fix" in this election year. John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe's 1997 musical about the backroom machinations behind the orchestrated resurrection of an American political dynasty all but stuffs its own thematic ballot boxes.

Originally produced by the Donmar Warehouse in London, revised for the 1998 U.S. premiere at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. (the version used here), "Fix" begins with presidential frontrunner Reed Chandler (William T. Lewis) succumbing to a coronary in flagrante delicto, Dempsey’s schematic libretto follows the power brokers the Senator left behind.

Grahame (Sal Mistretta, atop his game), his physically challenged campaign-guru brother, and Violet (Alix Korey, bravura and brassy as ever), his pragmatic Lady Macbeth-ish widow, unite around the in-house solution to an exceedingly sticky wicket: slacker-stoner Cal (the fervent, clarion-voiced Adam Simmons), Reed and Violet’s son -- albeit, as Grahame points out, of “questionable parentage.” The reveal of just how questionable is but one of many narrative calculations.

Director Randy Brenner, who previously staged the piece in concert for Musical Theatre Guild, joins musical director Darryl Archibald and choreographer Heather Castillo in giving the vaudeville satire-meets-rock concert potboiler proceedings ample invention. The designs are solid-on-a-dime, notably Stephen Gifford's stage-within-a-stage set and Donna Ruzika's red-white-and-blue-centric lighting, and the nine-member ensemble, reduced from the original's 19, is tireless and committed.

Mistretta, Korey and Simmons basically devour their ultra-archetypal roles. Lewis embraces Reed's spectral reappearances, while Melanie Hernandez shines as Cal’s Mafia-lounge Achilles heel. The multiple-roles quartet of Jay Donnell, Stephanie Hayslip, Carrie St. Louis and David Michael Laffey completes the competent roster.

Yet, for all its wit, the staging feels over-housed and under-populated. What might dazzle in a 99-seat venue diffuses its impact in the mid-sized ICT. Still, the chief problem isn't execution, but an intractable core deficiency. Between the trope-heavy, overripe plot and Rowe’s mega-generic melodies, the property, alas, remains less coruscating statement than predigested high concept where a show should be, which not even the admirable forces on tap here can fix.

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“The Fix,” ICT at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 20. $37-$44. (562) 436-4610 or www.ictlongbeach.org. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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