Winner of Rover Dramawerks’ Second Annual Play Contest, Susan Goodell’s Heels Over Head is a comedy concerning the plight of newlyweds Jake and Luna. They meet while bungee jumping (for the first time) at a workshop for conquering fear. Deciding their starcrossed path is nothing less than kismet, they immediately get married and hole up in a Bed & Breakfast for a few days, ignoring phone calls, emails and texts. They pledge to never, ever fight, lest they mar this marriage made in heaven.
Luna is all sunshine and buttercups while Jake is resolutely (if cautiously) optimistic. When they return to the grid, Luna meets Jake’s roommate, Stan who hates everything that comes out of Luna’s mouth, however innocuous. When Jacob meets Luna’s sister (and roomie) Mari, he learns the true meaning of the term: off the rails. Mari calls herself a psychic, and while this is debatable, it is certainly the least of her problems, being high strung strung and loopier than Rasputin. Thus Luna and Jake wind up bouncing between the two apartments, with no other place to stay.
I have been writing theatre critique for more than eight years, and I continue to be struck by the often quirky chemistry of stage comedy. I have noticed, for instance, that Neil Simon usually succeeds at the dazzling tango between pathos and hilarity. The problem is, he makes it look so easy. It seems that we must feel sympathy for the heroes and no more. While empathy is usually desirable, it can stymie humor because we care too much to create the necessary distance. In many ways The Out of Towners succeeds because we sympathize with George and Gwen’s predicament, but we don’t need to connect with them on a deeper level.
In some ways, Goodell’s plot is ingenious: Stan’s personality completely changes in the presence of an available skirt, Luna’s ex-boyfriend Marvin, while clueless, seems congenial, Jake and Luna reach the understanding that you can love someone and disagree. As we might expect, before the final resolution, the situation eventually digresses to chaos. And dancing. It’s useful to consider that Luna and Mari’s apartment is the very embodiment of his multiple phobias, but we don’t learn this till the second act. We are touched by this revelation (Jake never runs or protests) but the joke is lost. Heels Over Head is a charming, engaging story though the balance is a bit off. The cast gives 200% (this is always true at Rover) and it’s a grand evening of theatre.
Rover Dramawerks proudly presents Heels Over Head playing July 21st– August 13th, 2016. 221 West Parker Road, Suite 580, Plano, Texas 75023. 972-849-0358. www.roverdramawerks.com