Sassy and witty, hot-tempered and on a short fuse. The combatants are a sexy, volatile young woman and three Back Bay types a writer, a lawyer and a fiancee in sensible shoes. The setting is Boston, the ending is happy and laughter abounds. This part, I think I got down solid. So why the fuck are you up here, taking me apart? What an amazing fucking now job you are all doing on the world.
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That first production starred the well-known movie actor Kevin Bacon as Edward. The play explores issues of sexual harassment, the control and use of women, self-determination and identity, and changing expectations of men in a feminist era. Its discussion of sexual harassment was particularly timely, coming as it did soon after Anita Hill was hostilely questioned by Congress about her assertions that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had harassed her.
Although the important New York critics were not universally fond of the play, it was a success in that over the next decade it was produced all over the country. As Rebeck has gone on to fame and recognition as a screenwriter for television and film, the play remains an important early milestone in her career as well as an intelligent examination of issues that are as important today as they were in Originally from the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, Rebeck moved to Boston to attend college and graduated from Brandeis University.
In fact, if the theatre is to avoid a brain drain, this type of fluidity is increasingly necessary. Georgie, his neighbor, arrives home from work in a foul mood.
She is wearing her work clothes, including a pair of spike-heeled shoes. She changes her clothes in front of Andrew, which makes him uncomfortable. As she complains to Andrew, she lets him know that her boss, Edward, has made unwanted sexual advances to her and threatened to rape her. Andrew gets very angry, and Georgie tries to seduce him, unsuccessfully. When Andrew lets Georgie know that he has informally given Edward permission to pursue her, Georgie gets furious and storms out.
Edward arrives unexpectedly, dropping by to see his friend before picking up Georgie for their date, and Andrew lets him know that he is not welcome.
Georgie arrives, dressed provocatively, and Andrew gets Edward to leave for a minute so that he can talk to Georgie. As he tries to remove her spike heels, they kiss passionately. He pulls away. Scene 1 opens later the same night. Georgie and Edward have returned to her apartment and are making out on the couch.
She is attempting to seduce him but he resists, and wants to talk with her about her relationship with Andrew. When she refuses, he becomes insulting and she gets upset. They are interrupted by a pounding on the door: it is Lydia, who is very angry, thinking that Georgie is having an affair with Andrew.
They end up dancing with each other but stop when there is a pounding on the door—it is Edward and Andrew. Edward convinces Andrew to tell Georgie he loves her. This upsets both Lydia and Georgie, and the two women leave. They continue discussing the events of the previous night and Andrew admits that he and Lydia had slept together while she was still together with Edward. Georgie returns, and after getting Edward to leave, Andrew expresses his feelings to Georgie again, but she rejects him.
Andrew leaves, Edward returns, and the play ends with Georgie and Edward discussing whether they will become involved with each other. As the play opens, Andrew is fastidious, cautious, and tends not to take risks. Their personalities are very different, though; Edward is aggressive, extroverted, demanding, and at times a little sleazy.
He is a criminal defense lawyer and, as a favor to Andrew, has hired Georgie to be his secretary even though she has not attended college. She comes from a working-class background and has not attended college. She is lusty, earthy, sarcastic, and fatalistic, especially in her relationships with men. Six months before the play begins, Andrew has decided to become her friend and to try to diminish her self-destructive tendencies.
She is from an old, upper-class Boston family. In many ways, she is described as the opposite of Georgie, and the characters talk about her a great deal before she ever actually appears. Edward describes her as cold and unemotional, and Andrew wants to keep her pure, in a way. When she does appear, she is quite fiery, convinced that Georgie is trying to steal Andrew from her.
Each of the characters has a form of power and attempts to wield it, with results that are not what the character was hoping for. Edward also has power as a lawyer and as a boss, and he uses it crudely in an attempt to get Georgie to sleep with him. Georgie has little power, she feels, and therefore uses her sexual attractiveness symbolized by her spike heels and her foul mouth to establish her power. Lydia, the most powerless character of the play, in the outside world would have a great deal of power due to the fact that she is from an old, established family and presumably has a great deal of money.
Andrew wants to establish an enduring relationship with Georgie through his tutoring and, later, wants that relationship to become romantic, but, by laying bare the mechanism of his power over her, he loses her.
When Georgie tries to use her sexual power with Andrew and Edward, they both reject her. In this play, as is often true in society at large, the men have the power and the women are acted upon by that power.
Edward plays the role of boss and of sexual predator. He is aggressive, insulting, and demanding. By contrast, the women are acted upon. Lydia, as well, is acted upon—like Georgie she is traded between the men, and she is also subject to the approval of her presumably male-dominated family.
What is sexual harassment? Why is it such an important and controversial issue? Research sexual harassment, concentrating on the difficulties of constructing a legal definition and of enforcement. Why does Georgie decide to be with Edward instead of Andrew? Think about this question in terms of the development of each character: where does each character begin and what does each character learn in the course of the play?
How is social class important in this play? Each character represents a different social class, and to some extent has stereotypical aspects of that class. How does Rebeck use our expectations of how someone of a particular class behaves, and how do the action of the play and the changing relationships between the characters undermine those expectations?
What are the changes she works in the structure of the story, and how does this give her play different meanings than the other stories? Yet for all of her feminist consciousness of this, she still wears them because she feels that being sexually attractive is her only way to have power. She must embrace the role of temptress that the shoes give her in order to have any power. Andrew, who wants to remake her and diminish her sexuality, tells her to stop wearing them, but later in the play he admits that he, too, finds the shoes attractive.
Lydia also examines the shoes curiously. She does not rely on her sexuality to obtain power, and both disdains and envies women who do.
You wear them because they make your legs look amazing. The play does not make much use of the city; however, Rebeck cleverly structures the play in two parts, and the division is also indicated by the locations of the two acts. As the play examines very carefully some important differences between men and women, setting the two acts in apartments belonging to the two sexes allows the setting to mirror the theme. Character Development The play is in large part about self-discovery and the way that we grow to understand and learn new things about other people, and Rebeck uses the development of her characters to reinforce that theme.
With the exception of Georgie, all of the characters in the play are both presented to us and described to us by other characters while they are offstage. We get a very negative impression of Lydia before she ever arrives on the stage—Edward describes her as a vampire—but when she does show up she is much more animated and sympathetic than we suspected she would be.
Edward seems like a monster in the first scene, but when he makes his first appearance he is less so although he is certainly unsympathetic and arrogant.
Andrew appears quite sympathetic when he is presented directly to us, but when he is off-stage—when Edward or Lydia is talking to Georgie about him—we learn things about him that are unflattering. Women on the job, Rebeck indicates, are expected to dress attractively or even in a way that accentuates their sexuality. In addition, women must endure pain to appear professional or attractive. High-heeled shoes, worn consistently over a lifetime, can cause permanent malformation of the foot, and the spike-heeled shoes taller and, because of their narrow heels, transmitting more impact to the foot are especially dangerous for that.
Women are expected to wear high heels to work, but spike-heeled shoes, connoting sexuality, are rarely appropriate for work. So why does Georgie wear them? Georgie is from a working-class family and has little experience with the white-collar world.
The fact that she wears these shoes to work indicates her inexperience in the business world. And, as a secretary, she feels powerless. Sexuality has always been her source of power, and the spike heels represent her sexual power—something that Lydia comments on.
Georgie uses the spike heels to lure Andrew and Edward, but they limit her, make her just a sexual object. In that sense, when she doffs them—as she does on stage—it emphasizes her powerlessness and her lack of a defined place in the world. But, as she says herself, the spike heels are also an entirely nonsexual way for her to obtain power. I like being able to look you both in the eyes.
But, led by such theorists, writers, and political figures as Simone de Beauvoir , Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem , and Bella Abzug , women in the s began to demand different treatment. Although it is very difficult to make generalizations about such a vast transformation of social attitudes, we can confidently say that beginning in the s and lasting into the s a small but increasingly vocal minority of Americans wanted their Puritanical culture to talk frankly about sex.
In the s, a decade whose image today is dominated by middle-class American values, the movie star Marilyn Monroe and the magazine publisher Hugh Hefner, among many others, forced America to confront its hypocrisy about sexuality. But for all of the changes in American attitudes toward sex, American attitudes towards women had changed little. Even the invention of the birth control pill, which allowed women to experiment sexually without fear of pregnancy, was a mixed blessing for women in some ways.
What were appropriate roles for women at home? In the workplace? How should a woman use her sexuality? An especially thorny and enduring problem was sexual harassment, or unwanted sexual advances at work, especially those made by a male superior to a female employee. Many men dismissed the issue, but the legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon—mentioned by Edward in Spike Heels—helped draft legislation to define such conduct and make it illegal. Georgie uses her sexuality as a way to establish power, but her sexuality apparently backfires.
In the play, though, we see that Edward and Andrew have been treating her like a commodity, almost as if they have traded her—something they have done before—for Lydia. When the play was first staged in New York in , Rebeck was already known in the New York theatre world for her one-act plays, but Spike Heels was her biggest success to date.
In the world of contemporary American theatre, the most important city is New York. Although many plays have their initial productions in small theatres around the country, it is not until they are produced in New York that they are taken seriously.
‘Spike Heels’ (Georgie) – “I understand you all right”