Would you let a lover’s influence change your world?
It’s a question American playwright Neil LaBute addresses in a most provocative way in The Shape of Things, and a question quite masterfully realised by Red Stitch Actors Theatre in their current touring production of the play.
The Shape of Things is a focused, finely scoped piece that follows a few months in the life of Adam (Brett Cousins), an English major working multiple jobs to make tuition, and make ends meet, somewhere in small town America. Adam is an ordinary, gentle guy, a bit pudgy around the middle, making his way through life without making waves. Way too shy to even approach a woman. Until an apparently fortuitous encounter with art student Evelyn (Susan Godfrey) at the college museum. She’s there to declare a preference for truth in at by defacing a statue. It’s not her MFA project, she tells him – that’s just getting started, and will test art’s power to show the truth in a far more thoroughgoing way. There is an instant rapport, and Evelyn’s interest suddenly sees Adam losing weight, looking better, putting on PDA’s (public displays of affection), and redefining relationships with friends he’s known for years, including former roommate Phil (Daniel Frederiksen), and his fiancé Jenny (Kate Cole), for whom Adam once harboured a flame. For better or worse, Adam is becoming a whole new person, a refashioning that finds it’s way into his very flesh. The developing relationship between Adam and Evelyn is played out against a discourse on the merits of this refashioning of the self, something Adam understands through references to texts like Shaw’s Pygmalion and Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. And by the end of the play, Adam’s change has become more marked than he ever might have imagined.
This touring production, directed by Olivia Allen (after an original production by Tom Healey), is certainly worth seeing. The tensions in the human relationships, and human transformations, in The Shape of Things provide the vehicle the Red Stitch actors need to test their craft. Cousins succeeded in drawing the spectator into Adam’s relationship with his own changing world, and with the fascinating, almost abrasive, force of Godfrey’s Evelyn. Support from Cole’s Jenny, unnerved by a new relationship with a man she’s known for years, and Frederiksen’s Phil, suspicious of Evelyn’s interest in his former roommate from the start, gave LaBute’s four-hander the depth it needed to complicate the play’s thematic terrain. All four actors did a remarkable job carrying the moments of intimacy required of this text in the large-ish Gardens Theatre. They diminished the distance of the set quite quickly, and two hours watching the piece flew by, testament to Red Stitch’s ability to bring the elements together to create an engaging treatment of the text.
Red Stitch Actors Theatre presents
The Shape of Things
by Neil LaBute
Venue: Gardens Theatre
Dates: 24 July 8pm, 25 July 2pm and 8pm
Tickets: Adult $34 | Concession $28 | Student $22 | 24 and under $20
Bookings: 07 3138 4455
Touring nationally - www.redstitch.net