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The Missionary Position

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Happy (campaign) trails to you: Tony Bingham (left) and Tami Dixon in The Missionary Position. Photo by John Schisler.
  • Happy (campaign) trails to you: Tony Bingham (left) and Tami Dixon in The Missionary Position. Photo by John Schisler.

It all began with Nixon's infamous "Southern Strategy." In the '60s, the Republican Party, realizing there was an untapped voting bloc in America, actively began courting ... ah, let's call them "less-than-tolerant Southerners." Every successful national Republican candidate since has used code words like "states' rights" and "nonactivist judges" and, without exception, has kicked off his campaign in a deeply Southern state to get those yahoos to the polls.

In the late '70s, Republicans embraced yet another nefarious group, the Christian right. For a while it seemed that the combination was unbeatable, reaching its zenith with the recent Republican lock on the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

But with power's well-known propensity to corrupt, and Americans the conflicted mess they've always been, cracks have begun to appear. This is especially true of the Christian right; they've delivered for the Republican junta and now want their earthly rewards. (Alito and Roberts being just the beginning.) This story of the tail wagging the dog is what Keith Reddin's comedy The Missionary Position, receiving its world premiere at City Theatre, is all about.

The play centers on the presidential campaign of a candidate named Williams, a man who once would have been called a "country-club Republican." Within the campaign are two opposing camps. On one side is Roger, an unofficial adviser and Christian-conservative power-broker, who's making sure Williams hews to the religious right's party line ... which isn't easy, since the campaign's fund-raiser is the decidedly un-Christian Neil, who just wants to get Williams into the Oval Office and, as a bonus, piss off the smug, passive-aggressive Roger along the way.

Emboldened by the campaign's success, Roger indulges in a little king-making of his own -- with disastrous results of Old Testament proportions. Bringing her own drama into the mix is Williams supporter and Phyllis Schlafly manqué Julie.

It's Reddin's very witty idea to place his play in a series of identical hotels across the country: The set never changes except for the painting over the bed. Additionally, one actress plays the maids in all those rooms.

Reddin is a funny writer, and the clashes between Roger and Neil can crackle with wicked humor. Tony Bingham, as the insufferable Roger, does an excellent job showing the dark, dank underside of the patriarchal mindset, while Jeffrey Carpenter attacks Neil's delirious amorality with unabashed relish. Rebecca Harris, as the maids, creates five miniature portraits onstage, and Tami Dixon is big fun as the gleefully clueless Julie.

Given the broad landscape Reddin chooses to examine, it must be said that Missionary Position never comes close to hitting the mark; Reddin aims at easy targets, with not of lot of insight, and there's a curiously underwritten quality to what should be a far more scalding play. It's a safe bet to say that while director Tracy Brigden has taken this work as far as it can go in its present form, Reddin has a much longer campaign in front of him.

The Missionary Position continues through May 20. City Theatre, 13th and Bingham streets, South Side. 412-431-CITY

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