"The fierceness will begin shortly." And oh, does it ever. Fierce, funny, and fatal, "Fixed"—written by USC alum Boni B. Alvarez, and directed by USC professor Rodney To—is the Echo Theater Company's latest must-see production.
"Fixed" is a modern day "Romeo and Juliet," except this time, Juliet is a Filipino drag queen named Miracles (USC Alum Chris Aguila), and her Romeo is the sexy, but highly closeted Mariano (Wade Allain-Marcus). Mariano's sister-in-law, Dana (Renee-Marie Brewster) and his brother Hudson (USC Alum Joseph Valdez)— who is running for county sheriff—ask him to stay away from Miracles, as not to tarnish his reputation during the campaign. However, that's not the only force keeping these two lovers apart. Gigi (Alvarez), the mother of the House of Malacañang doubts Mariano's intentions, and, sensing his fear of committing to Miracles, does everything in her power to keep him away.
This story also introduces us to a world that many of us don't even know exists, the world of "Ball Culture." In this LGTBQ subculture, contestants "walk," or compete, against one another, and are judged based on talents, looks, and attitude. Winners take home trophies and cash prizes, and bring honor to their individual houses. Houses, like the House of Malacañang, are used as safe spaces for queer youth, giving them a place to go, a source of guidance, and a family.
Aguila is heartbreaking as Miracles. Her willingness to sacrifice everything for love is both admirable and foolish. When she paints a picture of the life she envisions with Mariano, you ache for it right along with her. Marcus is sexy yet frustrating as Mariano, whose inability to be truthful to himself makes you want to shake him. Alvarez is commanding, and even a little frightening, as Gigi. A strong matriarchal figure, her fierceness definitely stems from a place of love for Miracles, but that doesn't make her any less intimidating. Allen Lucky Weaver and USC alum Tonatiuh Elizarraraz bring guidance and laughter to Miracle's life as her two friends Jenny and Carmie. Brewster and Valdez are the perfect power couple. Adding to the drama is Anna Lamadrid, who plays the Mariano-obsessed Lizette, and Adrian Gonzalez, who plays sweet AJ, the one in charge of cleaning up everyone else's' messes.
Highlighting the end of scenes is dramatic lighting and sound cues by Matt Richter and Rebecca Kessin, respectively. The set, designed by Amanda Knehans, resembles a stage from a Ball competition, and the costumes, by Michael Mullen, compliment each character beautifully.
As much as we would like to think that we have made great strides in terms of acceptance, "Fixed," reminds us that there are still marginalized groups of people facing backlash from the heteronormative society we live in. The audience laughed, we cried, and we were reminded that the pursuit of love is not the right of any one sexual orientation.
This is not a "niche" show. You don't have to be a drag queen to connect with it. Most of us have never been in Miracles' shoes. I, for one, had never even heard of Ball Culture until this production. But this isn't a tale about drag queens and secret gay lovers. It's about the overwhelming and aching desire to be loved—and that is something that anyone, anywhere can relate to.
"Fixed" will be playing now until October 22nd—Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays at 8:30 pm, and Sundays at 4 pm—at the Atwater Village Theater. Tickets are available online at www.EchoTheaterCompany.com