Don’t let the title fool you. Fix Me, Jesus, the new play by Helen Sneed that just got its premiere at Theatre Three, isn’t about religion. Not unless you put your faith in shopping as an answer to prayer and think of the NorthPark Center Neiman Marcus as the Vatican.
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Directed by Emily Scott Banks, with four strong women’s roles and one weak male character, Fix Me, Jesus offers a soapy, sometimes soppy 110 minutes of Southern-accented angst about retail and rotten romances. The time is mid-1980s, the place is a huge Neiman’s fitting room, where the central character, Annabell Armstrong (Brett Warner), tries on racks of evening gowns, searching for the right frock for a fancy wedding reception at Dallas Country Club. Helping her is Mrs. Craig (Brandi Andrade), the friendly saleslady whom she’s known since childhood, when Daddy Armstrong, a big-deal Texas Democrat, used to treat Annabell to shopping sprees.
In flashbacks to Annabell’s childhood (she’s played as a 10-year-old by a squeaky Sydney Noelle Pitts), we learn that her father (never seen) fooled around, her mother (Sherry Hopkins) called her fat and made her practice the “Dallas deb bow,” and her grandmother (Gene Raye Price) was a racist old shrew who packed a loaded pistol in her handbag and barked that “Neiman Marcus is owned by Jews.” In flash-sideways scenes, Annabell visits her Jewish shrink (Shane Beeson, red-faced and not New York-y enough), with whom she falls into a destructive affair.
Fix Me, Jesus loses its momentum too early on and gets repetitive; it badly needs an intermission and a rewrite. Sneed provides a few decent zingers, like when Annabell anticipates the DCC soiree as a gathering of “400 Republicans with no sense of humor and no hips.” But is this a play about Texas politics? Annabell seems to be an up-and-comer among Democrats, but that didn’t mean much during the Reagan era. Or is it about the soothing temple of high fashion? Poor thing, after flinging all those dresses over her bushy hair (hon, you need a hair appointment more than a new dress), Annabell never even finds a gown for the party.
Sorry, Neiman’s and Theatre Three. No sale.