Theatre Blogger: Such Nice Shoes: Show Review
“Spare any change, please?” pleads an African-American lady, shuffling at the entrance to a Brooklyn subway station. Her accent, persistent limp and twisted wrist paint a precise portrait of one of many people trying to make it in New York City. The woman and many others are flawlessly portrayed by Christine Renee Miller in her new one-woman show Such Nice Shoes, now playing at Theater Lab in Manhattan.
Written and performed by Miller, Such Nice Shoes follows the life of a married New York City yoga teacher and actor as she navigates the city over a 12-hour period, which includes visiting rich clients and bombing at an audition. She has a hectic schedule that doesn’t allow for any down time or MTA errors, and is constantly anxious and exhausted.
The material doesn’t cover that much new ground, and Miller is not the first writer/performer to portray dozens of characters in rapid fire succession, with all their quirkiness, accents and singular gestures. It has been done before, from Lily Tomlin to most recently, Sarah Jones, whose one -woman show runs at the Manhattan Theater Club. Then again, there’s never been a lack of fascination or interest in exemplary impersonations on stage.
Miller’s delivery is always fresh, and there’s a lot of heart in her depictions. She displays moments of emotional honesty, as when the protagonist tears up after receiving mammogram results. Miller also has a wonderful sense of humor and comic timing, and navigates from one character to another with ease. It’s easy to relate to her familiar characters, which come from diverse linguistic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. They include her Korean mother in Texas urging her to have a baby already, the Indian clerk at the vegetarian samosa restaurant, and the Bible-thumping Caribbean nurse in scrubs on the train.
A lot of the protagonist’s day in the life is spent skirting around the periphery of other people’s successes and failures, and being constantly reminded of economic inequality. Her clients are part of Manhattan’s elite, and include a burnt- out hedge fund manager who dreams of retiring early to live on a farm, and a Southern Republican with three kids on the board of three charities who laments having her taxes raised. Miller’s protagonist is in awe of her client’s Upper East Side hallway, the size of her small Brooklyn apartment, while she has no health insurance. On the other end of the economic spectrum, Miller portrays homeless buskers with stories to tell and hands constantly outstretched.
Under the direction of Andrea Dantas, Miller navigates the space effectively, pacing deliberately, darting around panels and using the perimeter and center of the performance space to indicate a change of time or character. She connects to the audience with gestures and direct eye contact, which builds a sense of immediacy and intimacy
The lighting and sound design are also fresh and innovative, thanks to the work of projection designer Lilian Arnold, lighting director Kia Rogers, and sound designed Harrison Adams. The theater itself is a minimalist white room with three rows of white folding chairs for the audience, and four white rectangular panels at the back of the performance space. Throughout the show, scenes in motion from the city are projected on the panels, such as the shifting view from the Manhattan Bridge, and the moving of subways, with urban and bird sounds simultaneously piped in through the speakers.
Men hit on the protagonist, homeless people beg her for her change, she doubts her career choice, and wonders how she will one day support a family. With its stunning portraits, Such Nice Shoes succeeds because we all understand what it means to struggle, to survive and to seek happiness in the city that never sleeps, let alone rests.
Miller is a New York City based actress, director and writer working in TV and film, theater and commercials. Her credits include Sister, Sister, Moesha and Party of Five. Her first solo show Baby Cow debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2008.She has directed award-winning solo shows such as Mary Dimino’s Scared Skinny, Michelle Glick’s Asian Belle, and Melinda Buckley’s MOTHER. Miller currently teaches alongside Emmy-award winner Matt Hoverman in their GO-SOLO classes.
You can catch the final performances of Such Nice Shoes at 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 20, Friday October 21 or Saturday October 22. The performance duration is about an hour. Theater Lab is located at 357 W 36th Street, on the 3rd floor. Tickets are $20. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www/theaterlabnyc.com or www.suchniceshoes.com.
Originally published in Motherhood Later than Sooner.