Love is hard. It always has been. It’s made harder when you’re not sure what you really want. In Theresa Rebeck’s romantic comedy, a love rectangle comes crashing down around an engagement, a lifelong friendship, and a social experiment gone wrong.
The spiderweb of relationships in Spike Heels begins with Andrew (Antony Press) and Georgie (Jessica Saras) who are neighbours and friends. While waiting for Andrew’s fiancé Lydia (Kate Hardy) to arrive for dinner, Georgie unloads about an altercation between her and her boss Edward (Joshua Horwitz), who also happens to be Andrew’s best friend and Lydia’s ex-boyfriend. In the altercation, Edward threatened to sexually assault Georgie after a long string of rebuffed passes and Andrew becomes exceptionally defensive. This then unleashes a series of plots that sets Georgie up on a date with Edward and Andrew breaking his engagement to Lydia in order to confess his love to Georgie. It’s a tangled mess.
Loosely based on the plot of Pygmalion, Rebeck’s script is a sarcastic interpretation of the romantic comedy with the added injection of classism. While the backstabbing and revenge dates are entertaining, the most compelling aspect of this script is its investigation of class and the social capital of education. Andrew has spent months “improving” Georgie by lending her books and discussing philosophy with her, attempting to raise her from her working class roots. He even got her the job with Edward, working well above her skill level as a legal secretary. But Georgie cottons on and makes her position clear to all three of these upper-middle class Bostonians who treat her like a plaything. It’s unfortunate, and rather unsatisfying, then, for the play to end with Georgie and Edward happily ever after, as though her objectification and his evocation of sexual violence can be undone in an evening.
Serhat Caradee’s direction leaned into the comedy of the situation and played up ironic and sarcastic lines to emphasise the characters’ self-awareness. There was a sense in the cast’s dynamics of Georgie as a sharp outsider cutting into the well-worn familiarity of Andrew, Edward, and Lydia which, in a way, did a disservice to the development of her own relationships with each of the other characters. But Georgie’s strong sense of self, despite her confused romances, is the backbone of this story as she fights for her own agency and desire.
Saras and Horwitz had a particularly interesting rapport on stage together with equal energy and quickness to change the tone of their conniving. Their verbal sparring was elegant and engaging, leaving the audience waiting bated for a mistaken slip of earnestness for the other to latch on to. Hardy’s Lydia was proud and cruel which stood out against Press’s proud but wet portrayal of Andrew. While Horwitz carried the privilege of his character’s social position into every scene, Hardy and Press seemed reluctant to rise to their characters’ elite intellectualism. This dampened the play’s class criticism but also highlighted the fierceness of Saras’s Georgie and maintained narrative tension.
The idea of “match-making” or punching above your weight can wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem in the dating game, leading to unrealistic expectations and false facades in order to rise to your partner’s occasion. But if you shed the pomp of social status and search instead for similar souls, then you just might find your perfect match.
Spike Heels is running at Fringe HQ Newtown from May 19th – 29th
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