What happens when you mix über wealthy yoga clients, the MTA, the city’s homeless, crappy auditions, and breast cancer? asks Christine Renee Miller’s Such Nice Shoes. As it turns out, the answer is a hilarious, thought-provoking solo show. Such Nice Shoes follows a private yoga instructor-slash-actress just trying to get through another day. She has the same concerns as most people: worrying about rent, stressing about work, wondering how often you should give money to homeless people, etc.
The space at TheaterLab on the West Side of Manhattan is a low-ceilinged white room. In the center of the room is a pole between the audience and the stage which I expected to hinder the performance but which Miller turned into a prop, leaning on it like a subway pole. Forming a backdrop were four large white panels which lit up with cool graphics of typical NYC sights: crossing the Manhattan Bridge, waiting on the subway platform, that mad dash down the sidewalk that every New Yorker has made when they’re late for a meeting. Alternating between the minimalist white and inventive backgrounds, the theater sets the perfect stage for Christine Renee Miller.
Such Nice Shoes may be a solo show, but thanks to Miller’s creativity and talent, there are more characters than can be counted. Adopting an impressively wide array of accents and mannerisms, Miller changes in and out of characters like a chameleon – including, of course, herself. Homeless people, a Korean restaurant owner, a bumbling doctor, a Sikh psychic (a “Sikhic,” she quips), the New York elite – she even does a spot-on subway breakdancing routine. She nails every single one of them. Luckily, even the members of her family – a Korean mother and a British husband – have accents, which Miller lovingly recreates with gusto. But her best impressions are slipping seamlessly between these animated characters and herself reacting to them. Whether she’s on the phone with her doctor or fending off the advances of a particularly sexist client, she completely embodies both sides of a conversation. Through her interactions with the people that cross her path, Miller tackles issues from balancing stress to racism to breast cancer, with a Tolstoyan twist thrown in to prove that neither life nor this narrative are predictable.
Even with characters as colorful and resonant as the crop of Such Nice Shoes, it is Miller’s portrayal of New York City itself that stands out the most. Such Nice Shoes is at once an homage and an angry letter-to-the-editor; it’s the best of both sides of a love-hate relationship. It’s frank and honest, but it’s hopeful as well. Most of all, it so perfectly captures the soul of New York that anyone who has ever had to commute on the MTA will be slapping their knees or gasping in vicarious horror.
It’s obvious that Christine Renee Miller’s creation is dear to her. It’s full of heart and soul, and her impressions are so lively that they practically have minds of their own. It’s a day in the life of a busy woman, but it almost feels wrong to reduce it to a “day in the life” because this show is so much more. Such Nice Shoes is a delightful amalgam of worries, fears, hopes, and joys, and a candid story about everything that’s great and terrible about living in New York City.