THEATRE | Theresa Rebeck's 1992 play gets an Off-Broadway revival that highlights the growth of the conversation about women over the last two decades
In two Boston apartments, four hearts are alternately broken down and built back up again. Joanna Pinto plays Georgie, friend and borderline Eliza Dolittle to Andrew (Zach Shinske), a ruffled and confusable academic. She visits him, angry, tells him how her boss and his long-term friend Edward (Andrew Pagliara) at first propositioned her, then essentially threatened to rape her. A shocked Andrew wants to give Edward a piece of his mind, but Georgie is apparently more interested in Andrew, who she attempts to seduce. Andrew, however, is married to Lydia (Marie Dinolan), who he wants to remain faithful too. Georgie, shunned, goes out with Edward in an attempt to make Andrew jealous, but she just ends up stirring the pot even more. Sexual sparks fly, and the politics of love and gender form the backdrop to a deeply flawed love quadrangle.
Theresa Rebeck's Spike Heels is a straightforward play. A romantic comedy of manners (and lack thereof) in which the characters, despite, by and large, knowing what they want, are unable or unwilling to take the correct course of action to get what they want. Essentially, a very long episode of a sit-com, with all the requisite witty one-liners that entails. It's a funny play, and it's performed well by this cast, but in the "woke" era of millennial sexual politics, it raises a couple of issues.
The portrayal of women here feels very 1992 (when it was originally published), which would read fine if this was a period piece, except that this iteration is obviously set in modern day. Director Jay D. Brock has the characters using smart phones and iPods, indicating the present day quite clearly. The actions of both female characters feel stayed and boxed in, and, honestly, incorrect for our time. A 2017 version of Georgie would not take the crap she puts up with from Edward or Andrew. On the one hand, this is heartening, as the play now highlights progress that has been made in twenty-five years. On the other, it makes the audience pine for a stronger version of the character they are watching.
"Andrew Pagliara is a slimy hybrid of Patrick Bateman and Gordon Gecko as Edward"
Howl at the Moon and Chase Avon Productions have a lovely cast here. Pinto plays Georgie as strong, and sexually aggressive, but also masters the insecurities of the character in order to motivate the action of the play. Andrew Pagliara is a slimy hybrid of Patrick Bateman and Gordon Gecko as Edward, and yet somehow manages to also be likable and human, which makes him all the funnier to watch. Marie Dinolan's Lydia is exactly what the plot needs her to be: pristine, verging on icy, and yet also relatable. As Andrew, Zach Shinske hits all of his emotional beats well, however it feels like there is something missing from the character. If anything, he's too likable and relatable. His reputation as an aloof academic, as described by the play's text, feels at odds with the understanding Teddy Bear that Shinske presents us with. It's not enough to derail the production, but it does affect suspension of disbelief.
At the end of it all, however, Spike Heels is a pleasant evening at the theatre. While its politics are a little out of date, and it has one or two issues, the overall product is serviceable and enjoyable. A game cast perform a play filled with great jokes and enough heart to keep you interested. Worth a look for the casual Off-Broadway browser.