One night Rosemary Clooney's son brought home his latest chippy to meet mom. It was a Christmas party and the girlfriend had dressed her supermodel frame in a slinky black number and a bright red pair of pumps. Rosie walks in, takes one look and says: "There's only two kinds of women who wear red shoes ... and you ain't no Spanish dancer."
Carolina Loyola-Garcia, however, is a Spanish dancer. In fact, she is the red shoes in the Quantum Theatre production of The Red Shoes, loosely adapted by Quantum artistic director Karla Boos and Loyola-Garcia from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.
Andersen's "The Red Shoes" is about a very naughty young girl who shocks her village by wearing red shoes to church and generally misbehaving herself. But the shoes are cursed and the girl soon learns that she cannot stop dancing. Finally exhausted and deranged, she gets her feet chopped off and her heart bursts and she flies up to heaven. And isn't that a nice tale to tell the kids at bedtime?
But Quantum is working its pomo mojo in its decidedly theatrical outing. This version takes place in a church where folk-mass-type parishioners are staging a homespun Red Shoes. It's Quantum's clever idea to have Loyola-Garcia appear every time the young girl, played with plenty of charm by Erika Cuenca, wears the shoes. Loyola-Garcia is a flamenco dancer of incredible prowess and pretty soon, as in the story being told, the red shoes take over the proceedings. And while the parishioners are aching to get to the story's grisly ending, Loyola-Garcia and Cuenca supply a different, and far happier finale.
All in all, it's a cute idea, and Quantum and Boos have the good sense to keep the whole thing to about an hour in length. The cast, including John Marcinizyn, Alexi Morrissey, Andy Place, Lucas Savage and Jennifer Tober, are adept, skilled performers and their ensemble work is quite strong. Especially worth noting is Scott Nelson's extraordinarily expressive lighting design, which turns the performance space, the North Side's Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church, into a character itself, with its own subtext and moods. (Trust me, that'll make sense when you see it.)The Red Shoes continues through March 4. Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church, 416 W. North St., North Side. 412-394-3353