Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Spike Heels"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"Spike Heels"

by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Michael S. Pavlic

Scenic Design by The Company
Lighting Design by Jason Freimark
Costume Design by The Company
Stage Manager Jackie Leone

Andrew..............David Henderson
Georgie................Anne Maxwell
Edward..................Sean Hickey
Lydia...............Natalie Gardner

Is there a difference between love and sex? Are they just two names for the same selfish act? And whatever happened to girl-boy friendship, anyway? Theresa Rebeck's "Spike Heels" begins with a young, upwardly-mobile street-smart secretary telling her mentor that her boss threatened to rape her, but it soon develops that those two words may actually be what two different classes call the very same thing.

Those spike heels that Georgie wears "to make my legs look dangerous" even though they hurt her feet are the symbol of everything she does to please men --- even though she is trivialized into a sex-object in the bargain. She is the center of this swiftly witty play. She is willing to be what people think she is so long as that gets her what she wants, but eventually what she thinks of herself, and what she really wants, is the central question.

Andrew her mentor started by giving a waitress and loser books, asking a friend to give her a job, sharing her secretarial successes, and he feels --- is it protective, or something else? --- when that very friend puts the moves on his sexy Galatea. The fact that he and Edward --- the ultimate in thoughtlessly sexist lawyers --- had passed girlfriends off to one another in the past, the fact that Andrew suggested that Edward take her out, makes this ethics-teacher mentor's attitude toward his pupil quite ambiguous. When Edward comes in to explain himself, he is smooth, slick, suavely charming, but unapologetically reprehensible. Like Georgie, he accepts the uneven rules of the sex game and, in his eyes, plays it openly.

The fourth element in this mix is Lydia --- Andrew's current and Edward's former fiancee. Painted as a bloodless upper-crust rich girl, Lydia's stormy jealous confrontation with Georgie focuses eventually on their similarities and not their differences. Like everyone in this play, she is an unwilling product of her gender and her class. She and Georgie finding out what they have in common is a pivotal scene, since everyone in this play ends up knowing much more about themselves than they realised.

Zero Point Productions and Director Michael S. Pavlic have grooved on the with-it wit that is totally spontaneous with these people. The confrontations rattle along with lively conviction, punctuated by surprised guffaws of recognition from the audience. The arguments over sex and its social barriers feel fresh and alive, and the show is certainly fun as well as thought provoking.

In general, though, everyone is just a shade more wholesome than is good for them. Anne Maxwell as Georgie looks as great barefoot as she does in those punishing heels, and everything she wears seems tasteful, rather than as blatantly brassy as some lines imply. Thus she is reduced to demonstrating Georgie's direct sexuality physically --- standing on tables or dangling head-downward off couches, legs in the air --- though even this looks more like flamboyance than seduction. She doesn't seem an unashamed, conscious player of the sex game; instead she is continually aware that her motor-mouth often says things she never thought about, and that she regrets.

Similarly, David Henderson starts out demonstrating his emotions physically. Since he doesn't start out with a glacial nervousness, he has nowhere to go when his righteous self-confidence begins to unravel. This is not true of Sean Hickey as Edward, whose acceptance of his lawyerly lies lends honest charm to even his most egregious defenses of the sexual status-quo.

Natalie Gardner as Lydia has a tough row to hoe. She is the epitome of up-tight, first placating then rebelling against her stuffy parents, but in thrall to their wishes either way. She melts convincingly as Georgie insists they dance together, but she starts out knowing she is fourth banana here, and has found no strength in the character to hold on to.

The fact that there could be more edge to the show should not imply that this is a bad theatrical experience. Exactly the reverse. All four performers attack the play with vigor and sincerity, they play well together, and are fully aware of the implications of their lines. The two acts rattle along with surprise after surprise, and these are pleasant people to be with. The final resolution may seem as much a surprise to the protagonists as it did to me, but there are lots of ideas and fun along the way.


"Spike Heels" (till 27 June)
actors' Workshop, 40 Boylston Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide