A middle-aged man, decked out in modern-day armor—jacket, tie, suspenders, and shined shoes— sips a pale ale. He is achingly alone. Melancholy seems to be his most present friend. Regret, all he knows of his past. And personal annihilation the only trail for his future.
At the opening, we have The Bar —the first of three one-act plays in “Red High Heels, a trilogy”— and at one sits an everyday-kinda-joe who has lost his job. His wife. His sense of direction.
Yep, this is one happy hour bereft of happiness.
An older gentleman and a younger bro soon join the fray and help the middle-age man tackle his problems with perspectives begot by their own experiences.
The catch? All three men are the same guy—Present, Past and Future versions, with the latter two imparting… Ok, I would like to say advice, but really it’s actually trite pontifications that advance clichés. It’s not good and it turns an interesting premise (a heart-to-heart with oneself) into something akin to plenary lectures at a self-help convention. A back-and-forth of related lines is absent; instead, we get two disparate men comparing life to making coffee or gardening and impressing upon their Present version that he should embrace hope, perspective, and personal growth. The act ends with a triumphant “Carpe diem!”
Unfortunately, the one-sided pontificating doesn’t end there.
The three separate one-act plays, The Bar, Vignettes and The Blue Box all tackle life’s biggest questions: Is God real? Does Fate exist? What is anyone’s purpose for living? Connected by the mention or appearance of red high heels as well as the emphasis that perspective is key, the one-acts attempt to coalesce into a full production that thoughtfully explores hope and the divine. Yet, the difficult, deep, and controversial concepts/ideas are inaccessible—hidden behind jargon and a surplus of metaphors and analogies.
Vignettes, the most promising, is a series of snapshots of travelers as they wait for a delayed flight. Their conversations vary, from the mundane (a mother and her ill-behaved daughter) to the mystical (a lawyer and a hiker). A grandfather regales his grandson with tales of the past in an effort to pull the boy away from his smart phone. It’s the most relatable and interesting of the bunch, but it’s overshadowed by more pontification—a sociology professor lectures his daughter who’s heading to college; another man practices a speech about the virtues of entrepreneurship on his wife. Both stand over their female companions and address them as if from a pulpit.
Here, entrepreneurs are compared to psychics while life is compared to bobsledding. I also understand it’s like a box of chocolates.
I’ve never heard dialogue like most of this at an airport. And I travel a lot. Then, a jarring ending comes out of nowhere. I don’t know if it or the use of the phrase “low-hanging fruit,” which should be stricken from the work place and never used in theatre, disturbed me most.
The Blue Box is the most complex, diving straight into the God debate via a trial in a place called “the Dominion” and overseen by a tyrannical, theist judge who readily murders witnesses—all educated professionals or scientists and all female. The titular blue box? It holds proof that God does or does not exist.
A psychologist drops a couple of choice concepts—cognitive dissonance and narcissistic personality disorder—while the astrophysicist lines up all the best theories (string, big bang, Schrodinger’s cat) in her testimony. Here, I started wishing I had spent my evening binge-watching a different big bang, one with adorable Geeks.
RED HIGH HEELS
Jan 15 – 22
2020 Shannon Place SE
Thursdays thru Sundays
As someone who once declared 2007 the year of the “Red Shoe Initiative,” I can get behind the flashy footwear—it’s fun and racy. Most women would probably say the same, but placing them in a play and equating them with….some higher life power? Having them represent a man’s need for validation? Being the fuel for an opus on God?
I’m not sure, and I hate feeling as if I’m not deep enough to get it or I’ve missed something, a lazy student who has to skip to Cliff Notes.
I’m troubled by all the clichés, lack of female voices, and, in the transition from Vignettes to The Blue Box (it involved a chased plane), I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone. I hope that’s not what writer Harrison Murphy and Director Jim Girardi were going for.
The ensemble cast–each member playing numerous roles–is fine, doing what they can with what they have. I would give a shout-out to several, but the program doesn’t specify who plays who.
“Red High Heels, a trilogy” left me struggling to find real wisdom in its words and weary from trying.
“Red High Heels, a Trilogy” by Harrison Murphy . Directed by Jim Girardi . Featuring Clermon Acklin, Anna Fagan, Kandace Foreman, Erik Harrison, Dannielle Hutchinson, Mitch Irzinski, Lily Kerrigan, James Kidney, Pat Martin, Andrew Quilpa, and Erin Wagner . Set Design: Brian Gillick . Lighting Design: Johnathan Alexander . Costume Design: Stephanie Fisher . Sound Design: Jim Girardi . Properties Design: Gregory Jackson . Stage Manager: Lynn Horton . Produced by Sharp Stick Productions . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.