On Stage

The Shoe Play

A sole-searching story

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

There were a few moments during last Friday’s showing of Quality: The Shoe Play when the fourth wall got a bit wobbly.

It wasn’t a big surprise. Since Bellingham TheatreWorks is staging the play about two women fighting a sole-searching battle for supremacy at a high-end shoe store at an actual shoe store, the conceptual barrier between the fictional work and its viewers was already thinner than one would expect at a night at the theater.

But rather than detract from the performance, the short periods of reality—an ambulance roaring by Fairhaven’s 12th Street Shoes, the actresses brushing within centimeters of audience members sitting in the front row, and a friendly passerby stopping to hold the store’s front doors open for one of the characters who appeared to be struggling with a large box—only added to the appeal.

In fact, by the time Pippa (Western Washington University senior Jacki Campbell) smiled and said “thank you” to the helpful pedestrian who opened the door for her as she entered the “stage” from the sidewalk, I was already hooked. The fact that she didn’t miss a beat when dealing with exterior forces kept me on the line.

Following a script by Vancouver-based playwright Elaine Avila with direction by WWU grad Kayla Adams, the story focuses on what happens after Pippa uses her smarts to get hired at a famous designer’s shoe store by the savvy, sexy manager, Roxanne (Brie Turoff Mueller, a recent New York City transplant).

Thanks to Pippa’s ability to both channel the personalities of shoes and also follow Roxanne’s lead—at least when it comes to how to deal with the fussy customers who purchase the expensive footwear—she’s soon the leading saleswoman.

But it turns out that beneath her mild-mannered exterior, Pippa is more ambitious than she lets on. While Roxanne is centered on keeping the brand classic and out-of-reach to all but those with financial fortitude, Pippa reaches out to the designer to suggest lower-cost alternatives. When her ideas are implemented, the two strong women come to an impasse.

Because it’s a two-person play, the audience never sees the customers they’re catering to. Instead, the duo channels the women through “lessons” Roxanne imparts to Pippa, where they both take on the personalities of everyone from a filthy-rich actress to an overweight socialite and a woman who has saved up for a year to be able to purchase a pair of sought-after heels.

Among the hilarity of what I’m going to call a “shoe-gasm” and lighter moments that see the two accomplished actresses banter with each other like sparring partners, Quality: The Shoe Play also features deeper issues such as jealousy and self-worth—relating both to the customers and its employees.

Once Pippa sees that Roxanne has spent years passing on her ideas on to the designer—“I’m his muse!” Roxanne argues—she makes it clear that she won’t let that happen to her.

I could tell that resonated with other members of the audience, as well. There’s a telling moment when Roxanne is defending herself to Pippa when she declares that she is happy being the inspiration for such a great man.

“Inspire yourself,” the woman behind me muttered.

You’ll have to purchase a ticket to the play to find out if that’s what ultimately happens, but suffice it to say that for both Pippa and Roxanne, the outcome—and the play itself—is about a whole lot more than shoes.

More On Stage...
Team Tabetha
A show of love

Tabetha Clark is much more than a dancer. The Bellingham-based performer and founder of ABC Dance is a force of nature who inspires others not only when it comes to onstage action, but also behind the scenes and beyond.

Tabetha is also a mother, wife, sister and—after recently being…

more »
Hark!
Read all about it

It’s not often that a newspaper plays a starring role in a song-and-dance performance, but when Bellingham Music Club’s annual cabaret show makes its way to the Firehouse Arts and Events Center this weekend, it will be with the city’s daily paper in the spotlight.

From Oct. 4-6, Hark! The…

more »
Welcome Back!
From students to stars

When looking at the roster of current mainstage performers at the Upfront Theatre, a common theme soon emerges.

Research indicates that at least five actors who regularly head onstage at the longtime improv-focused theater first learned their creative craft as members of Western…

more »
Events
Today
Rainbow Reads

3:00pm|Ferndale Library

Cook It and Book It

3:30pm|Lynden Library

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

War Through the Eyes of Women Book Club

6:00pm|Bellingham Vet Center

Peru Novoandina

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Mind-Body-Food Connection

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

WAKE Meeting

6:30pm|Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Center

Beginning Square Dance Lessons

7:00pm|Ten Mile Grange

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Fancy Bingo

7:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

Village Books
Tomorrow
Bellingham at Home Informational Meeting

1:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Endangered Species Curator's Tour

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Prosecutors race is a referendum on reform

6:00pm

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Where the sidewalk ends

7:00pm

Walking to the End of the World

7:00pm|Village Books

Brian Dean Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Climate Change and Forests

7:00pm|Sustainable Living Center

Modified documentary and Panel Discussion

7:30pm|Pickford Film Center

Village Books Trove Web
Thursday
Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Camber Exhcange

5:30pm|1820 Scout Place

Falling Out of the Box Jewelry Challenge

6:00pm|Jansen Art Center

Squash Celebration

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Chuckanut Radio Hour

6:30pm|Whatcom Community College

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Nooksack River Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Trove Web Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Siro