When I saw that The Brown Paper Box Co. was bringing a Theresa Rebeck play to the stage at The Raven Theatre Complex, I felt a tinge of excitement. I was one of those who loved her television show, “Smashed” and was upset when it was not renewed for another season, wanting to know if “Marilyn, The Musical” could or would ever make it to the real stage. Well, today, I witnessed the play that Rebeck wrote, “Spike Heels”, which in itself would cause one to purchase a ticket, for one reason or another. Those of you into “heels” know what I am referencing. This four character play, directed by Stephanie Rohr is a bit over the top and far too lengthy.
Two hours and fifteen minutes, the two acts (four scenes) take us into the lives of Georgie (the very sexy Jillian Weingart) who is in the process of being transformed, ala Eliza Doolittle, by her downstairs neighbor Andrew (the able but very dry Jesse Dornan) to a new lifestyle. At the very start of the play she is coming to his apartment to complain about a situation that took place between her and her boss, Edward (Charles Askenaizer), his best friend. It turns out that Edward wanted to have sex with Georgie, but she didn’t, and as the script takes us through the dialogue, not so much that she did not want to, but it was in the way he asked, or didn’t!
The description of the play is a comedy of manners that pits a young woman against a lawyer, an academic and the academic’s fiancee, who at one time was the girlfriend of the lawyer (Edward). While this sounds confusing, it gets even more complicated as they deal with sexual harassment and what could turn out to be a love triangle. Supposedly we are to deal with the exploration of class and gender politics but with honesty, passion and wit. To be honest, I did not see all that unfold in this story which would have been far better off as a ninety minute, no intermission- slam bam, thank you,ma’am!, show.
The main character in this story is Georgie and while I admire Ms Weingart’s performance, she is up against a script that had the “F” word far too many times, along with lots of screaming. Georgie is a sympathetic character who gets stronger as the play progresses, but Rebeck fails to develop her growth for the audience to truly feel that she has grown as a woman and a person.
The set and props designed by Sara Heymann were efficient as they used the same set to be both apartments. There were a few flaws in the doing of this, as we moved from scene to scene and act to act. They need to pay close attention to detail in that neither of these apartment dwellers has either a television set or computer, although Andrew has a portable typewriter (when did this play take place? young people might ask, what is a typewriter? FYI- an old-fashioned way of communication). They moved the couch and cushions were changed along with the stereo, but the book cases were the same and the books were the same. Little stuff, but I heard people talk about this which takes them away from the action on the stage.
According to the “Mission Statement” of the theater company, it is their desire to create thought-provoking and accessible theatrical experiences without the glitz of overproduction, allowing their artists to deliver an elevated focus on the text. This may not have been the best play to select for achieving this. The actors do a reasonable job of story telling and there are some special spots in the play. Ms. Weingart plays the sexy blonde quite well and her character building is well worth the price of the ticket. Despite the script having nothing to say., she makes it worth experiencing.
You can see for yourself at The Raven Theatre Complex, located at 6157 N. Clark Street (at Granville) in Chicago, where it will play through February 8th on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
Tickets are $20, open seating and tickets can be purchased by going online to www.brownpaperbox.org or call the theater box office at 773-338-2177
There is a parking lot next to the theater and street parking, some metered , some not. Public transportation stops right at the door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Spike Heels”