Theresa Rebeck is sort of a curiosity to many theatregoers. Her brand of comedy of manners falls into the realm of naturalism, yet there always seems to be something absurd about the situations of her plays. Take for instance the meeting of Georgie (Deborah Engle), a former prostitute, and Lydia (Claire Engel), an upscale woman, in Act Two. There is something not exactly realistic about the uneasy meeting, but somehow it is presented as matter-of-fact. When Georgie asks Lydia to dance, it's like watching two worlds colliding on the dance floor. These strange encounters lift a play from being merely conventional, and although the setup may seem odd at first, it develops into something refreshing, enchanting, and unexpected. Adding a first-rate production helps, and Edge Productions supplied it.
What seems to dominate the play's heart, and the heart of all of Rebeck's work, are her characters. It may seem easy to label them, but through the unexpected absurdities they endure, they aren't easy to get a grasp on. When they seem to have been figured out, they baffle themselves and each other. Spike Heels offers us the prostitute with more than the eye expects, the womanizer, the nerd, and the prissy ice queen, and then turns it upside down. In this inverted Pygmalion, not all the characters get what they want, but they seem to get what they need. In Rebeck's world, where men and women are constantly fighting for the upper hand, mere conversations turn into full-scale wars, and the age-old battle of the sexes is played out. She uses her dialogue as little pricks of needles to seduce and destroy and to win the battles. Here, all four characters search to better their condition, and, unable to play by already existing rules, abandon the old ones for new ones.
This revival of Spike Heels offered a good cast with solid direction from Jean Dobie Giebel. Her production was seamless. Deborah Engle's Georgie was a bad girl in transition who ultimately does not find the upper class better off than she is. She showed Georgie as tough, vulnerable, and much smarter than the others around her. Christopher Dippel's Andrew was a good contrast as her mentor, the man who drags her out of the gutter and ends up falling in love with her. His Andrew is basically a lost boy who sacrifices passion for logic. Jason O'Connell clearly had a good time with Edward's sleazy Wall Street broker, and it was infectious. Finally, Claire Engel offered a detailed and rich performance as Lydia, whose world is turned upside-down by the girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
The uncredited set was super, giving the whole production crediblity. Walking onto the set gave the impression of walking into an apartment. Lighting, by Galwyn Gwynn, was effective as well.
Return to Volume Seven, Number Twenty-six Index
Return to Volume Seven Index
Return to Home Page
Copyright 2001 Andrés J. Wrath