Dallas — People can sense the difference between a designer dress and a knock-off. Though similar in cut and cloth, something just isn’t the same. If it wasn’t mysterious, anybody could do it.
And so it goes with theater, as well.
As far as fashion, for votaries of that mystical designer difference only the Oracle of NorthPark will do: Neiman Marcus. Set in its consumerist confessional (the dressing room), playwright Helen Sneed guilelessly titles her play Fix Me, Jesus, though the thoughts therein only go as high as the elevators can take you. At Theatre Three, director Emily Scott Banks stitches clips of this flashback show together as best she can but there’s only so much she can do with a worn-out pattern.
Annabell Armstrong (Brett Warner) crashes into the Neiman’s dressing room with less than an hour to get the perfect dress for a wedding. Brandi Andrade plays the long-suffering attendant, Mrs. Craig, who will attend to Annabell’s crisis of character and costume as she has done since Annabell was little. Through the magic of theater, young Annabell (Sydney Noelle Pitts) can traipse through the looking glass with her wicked mother (Sherry Hopkins) and even more wicked grandmother (Gene Raye Price).
The mothers come off so poorly, in fact, that it’s no surprise that the playwright heads up Special Projects for Disney Theatricals. But breaking with Walt’s tradition, it’s the father who’s absent here. Though he is a pivotal plot device, he won’t appear. This is a show about how the women deal with the tough times he inflicts on them. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.
There’s a subplot with a New York analyst (Shane Beeson) that takes long enough to develop for the audience to hope that Annabell won’t make the obvious choice to work out her daddy issues on the one man in the cast. But those hopes prove unfounded. Even that is more excusable than working out a way for her daddy to have been in JFK’s motorcade (Texas Democratic Party Chairman) or grandmother to have a chrome-plated revolver in her purse (Shoot JR, much?).
It’s like a knock-off of a Nora Ephron Knot’s Landing.
To her credit, Warner never gives up on her character, though the playwright plots the play around her. Left with little to do but try on clothes and crack wise, Warner aims at keeping her light and likeable, but with no real desperation driving the remarks, her evening of self reflection is all whine and no why. Brandi Andrade has an equaling difficult task as the unconditionally loving saleslady, Mrs. Craig. Through the flashbacks we learn reasons for her devotion and that helps explain her unbelievably understanding demeanor, though that too will have its (credit) limit. Gene Raye Price sails through the storm with rock steady racism and rancor. Her no-frills attack on an unlikeable character ends up ironically giving the ole gal some undeserved dignity.
In the final tally, Fix Me, Jesus is like a potluck meringue: frothy and fun, but unfilling.