Laughs overpower 'Spike Heels' meaning

January 13, 1995|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Sun Theater Critic

There's a flip side to just about everything. In "Spike Heels," the heroine, Georgie, initially complains that her feet ache from the high heels she wears to the office to please men. A day later she's wearing even higher heels, and now she's happy about it, because the added height allows her to see eye-to-eye with men.

Love works pretty much the same way in this romantic comedy, written by Theresa Rebeck and receiving its Baltimore premiere at the Vagabond Players. One day Georgie is hurling profanity -- and pencils -- at her boss, accusing him of sexual harassment. The next day, she's in his arms on her living-room couch.

"Spike Heels" is a variation on the romantic triangle theme. You might call it a romantic quadrangle. Georgie's in love with Andrew, but he's engaged to Lydia, who used to go out with Edward, who happens to be Georgie's aforementioned boss.

The plot tracks the ever-changing combinations of these four characters. Though the primary theme is the war between the sexes, the script also touches on the uses and abuses of language (with plenty of four-letter words as examples) and the nature of friendship. There's even a bit of the Pygmalion theme thrown in for good measure.

The playwright seems to be striving for social relevance, but her script is more successful in its lighter moments than its heavy ones. And, despite the efforts of director Suzanne Beal's largely talented cast, the play simply goes on too long.

But a few words about the performances, which contribute significantly to the production's entertainment value: At the top of the list is Tony Colavito's portrayal of Edward, Georgie's egotistical, male-chauvinist boss. The play begins with Georgie's claiming that Edward threatened to rape her, and Colavito gives us cause to believe it when we eventually see how he behaves with her. Edward is the latest sleazy character depicted by this actor, who seems to be making a mini-specialty out of these Mamet-esque roles.

"Sometimes talking to you is like talking to a swamp," Andrew tells him.

"It's a gift," Edward replies.

Since Claudia Berman's sarcastic Georgie can match Edward expletive for expletive, these two seem made for each other from the start -- one of several revelations "Spike Heels" drags its heels in making. In addition, though Georgie is supposed to make her entrance enflamed with rage, at the first public performance, it took Berman a while to get up steam. This will probably resolve itself as the run continues, especially since once her temper flares convincingly, she has no trouble maintaining that level.

The other two roles are less showy by definition; they almost seem like foils for hotheaded Georgie and Edward. Rick Clark is sufficiently low-key and bookish as Andrew, although his romantic attraction to Georgie is never entirely credible. In contrast, as Lydia, his socialite fiancee, Stacey Werling shows some of the grit that leads Georgie to like her, despite the fact that they're in love with the same man.

Playwright Rebeck clearly intended the word "Heels" in the title to refer to more than just shoes. But despite its serious-minded themes, "Spike Heels" does a better job being amusing than meaningful. It could stand a harder-hitting kick.

"Spike Heels"

Where: Vagabond Players, 806 S. Broadway

When: 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 5

Tickets: $9 and $10

Call: (410) 563-9135

** 1/2

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