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Class conflicts and gender roles

By Jean Lowerison

Four characters in two Boston apartments weather the vicissitudes of human relationships, heartbreak and love (mutual and otherwise) in Theresa Rebeck’s rom-com of manners “Spike Heels,” playing through April 7 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista.

Along the way, contemporary issues are raised, such as class conflict, gender roles and oh, yes, the real reason some women wear those awful shoes.

Daniel Sosa Porter as Andrew, Andrea Acuna as Georgie (Photo by Andriana Zuniga-Williams)

Andrew (Daniel Sosa-Porter), an academic who teaches political philosophy, has established a sort of Henry Higgins relationship with upstairs neighbor Georgie (Andrea Acuna), a loud, foul-mouthed Bostonian (sounds like Southie), to whom he funnels books and talks about Nietzsche and Homer’s “Odyssey.” He has also gotten her a job as secretary for his lawyer friend Edward (Mauricio Vetaci).

Andrew is engaged to upper-crust Lydia (Samantha Schmidt), so hanky-panky with Georgie isn’t an option. But when Georgie tells him Edward both propositioned and then threatened to rape her, Andrew blows up and starts talking lawsuit. Is it morality or self-interest that’s really driving him?

Rebeck (whose other plays “Seminar” and “Bad Dates” have been seen on local stages, and has written for TV shows “L.A. Law” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”) has a way with snappy dialogue and familiar, easy-to-relate-to characters, and “Spike Heels” is no exception.

Though Rebeck’s TV experience shows in some of the monologues that stray into preachy or overworked territory (the men reminisce about how nice it was when men could blame all their problems on women; Georgie goes off on a justifiable diatribe about shabby treatment based on class differences that sounds a bit dated), but consider the play’s 1992 publication date.

Andrea Acuna as Georgie (Photo by Andriana Zuniga-Williams)

“Spike Heels” offers believable characters and engaging dialogue, and Director Charley Miller and the cast do a good job on Rebeck’s behalf.

Georgie is a bit of a lower-class stereotype, but thanks to Acuna, an utterly engaging character you can’t help pulling for.

Andrea Acuna as Georgie, Daniel Sosa Porter as Andrew (Photo by Andriana Zuniga-Williams)

Sosa-Porter’s Andrew is, OK, a bit of a prig, but well meaning even if he does think Georgie needs some self-improvement. Sosa-Porter is a good actor, but I kept thinking a few well-placed gray patches in his hair would make him look more, well, academic.

Vetaci’s Edward is convincing as a typical legal scumbag who’s gotten away with it long enough to apparently believe it’s the way things are and perhaps even ought to be. He offers this charming comment about Lydia, “She’s pale … what happens when you dust her off and put her in sunlight?”

Schmidt’s Lydia gets short shrift on stage time, but her late scenes — especially with Georgie — are affecting.

Chad Oakley’s simple, movable set works well, and does his usual fine job on lighting as well.

Sarah Robinson’s costumes reflect their wearers well (but please fix that floppy opening-night pocket handkerchief for Edward!).

In case you’re wondering why women wear those spike heels, it’s because they make your legs look amazing. And in Georgie’s case, “It’s the only way I can look you guys in the eye.”

By the time “Spike Heels” ends, the women have realized that they have more power than they ever thought. That’s a nice thought to go home with.

— Jean Lowerison is a long-standing member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and can be reached at infodame@cox.net.

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