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Theatre review: 'Shoe Story' at Theatre of NOTE

April 21, 2011 |  6:00 pm

Shoestory The streetwise milieu of New York's 1980s sneaker culture forms the metaphoric instep of "Shoe Story" at Theatre of NOTE. Although Ben Snyder's 2008 fantasia sometimes stumbles over tone and context, it's laced throughout with admirable thought.

"Shoe Story" traverses a storefront emporium, strikingly abstracted by Sibyl Wickersheimer's footwear-laden scenic design.  Current-day Foot Locker-esque worker PeeWee (Norm Johnson) gets mugged for his designer kicks, dumped by nominal girlfriend Sarah (Nikki Brown), and enigmatic narrator O.G. Mar (Justin Alston) alludes to a Reagan-era tragedy to boot the plot out of the box.

We flashback to two Yu's Shoes employees -- idealistic Juney (Johnson) and pragmatic Rob (Richard PierreLouis) -- who cope with lookie-loos and shoplifters, covet top-tier items and stay afield of world-weary Yu (Michael Yama), their Korean boss.  Juney's romance with single mom Sabrina (Brown) and a yearning for the holy grail of sneakers centers the narrative, Yu's reactions to the Jewish building owners and collegiate dreams for his daughter providing cultural counterpoint.

Billed as an "urban fairy tale," Snyder's hybrid is at heart a coming-of-age parable in sociological break-dance mode. Director Maureen Huskey fashions the episodic narrative into an impressive modernist package, sharply accentuated by Bryan Maier's sound, Matt Richter's lighting, Hunter Wells' costumes and the videos by Maier and Anthony Puente.

Huskey's ensemble, which includes Julian Evens, Alex Elliott-Funk and Craig muMs Grant, is adept, bouncy and versatile, despite a recurring clash between naturalistic and stylized approaches. Understandable -- Snyder's sidewalk argot and elegiac poetry adorns a relatively foreseeable storyline, which softens the last degree of impact. Still, merely the venue's proximity to countless local vendors indicates "Shoe Story's" Hollywood aptitude. Hype-beasts and sneakerheads, take note.

-- David C. Nichols

"Shoe Story," Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 21. $22. (323) 856-8611 or Running time:  2 hours.

Above: Norm Johnson and Richard PierreLouis in a scene from "Shoe Story." Credit: Darrett Sanders