Originally Published March 22, 2006
CSUN’s theater department’s production of Neil LaBute’s socially satirical play “The Shape of Things” is intimate and provocative with confident acting.
The play is about the chance encounter of opposites and the complex relationship that evolves when a Woody Allen-esque English major student, Adam (Jim Miller), moonlighting as a museum guard, meets the flirtatious art student Evelyn (Gia Cognata). They are complete opposites and it is not absolutely clear how such a free-spirited beautiful woman could find a conservative nerdy man attractive, but the truth is later revealed.
Their relationship grows and Adam’s life transforms after dating for 2 years. His girlfriend is suspected to be to blame for his change of clothes and healthy workout regimen. Did she forcibly manipulate him in this metamorphosis? Adam’s friends Philip (Ryan Jordan) and Jenny (Katherine Johnson) question these changes. They wonder where Adam gained his new-found confidence and worry it may have changed his attitude for the worse.
In an argument where Phillip questions Adam’s new jacket, he said, “I hope the next time we pass each other, I recognize who the hell you are!”
The acting in the play, under the direction of student Amy Oliviera and the bold “Theatre without a safety net” motto of the Studio Lab series, was crisp and spotless.
The play is modern and well-acted in this reinvention of “Pygmalion,” the Bernard Shaw play about experimenting with human lives. The witty dialogue in the play is exchanged fast and flawlessly. The actors never stumble into a tongue tied or forgotten line moment. Tight acting and flowing dialogue move the play through its 10 scenes quickly.
There were bold sex scenes and intimate moments. The small theater made the play feel as if it was being performed in your living room with a couple of your friends in the audience. The sex scenes were tastefully done and vital to the story.
The plain white set, designed for simplicity, drew focus on the actors and their interaction. The actors made ample use of the space by taking the interaction to the audience.
The art within art concept of the play was made literal with the use of video, the first I have ever seen in theater. When you think of theater you think only of live performance, but the use of video was needed and used very well.
The final scene’s noticeably melancholy blue wardrobe set the mood. This is also where a beautifully delivered monologue and final confrontation take place. Up until this point, the audience had been led on a blind philosophical journey and finally learned the secret. But the road signs of questions like, “What is an artist’s responsibility?” “What shapes you?” and “Is love real or relative?” are up for the audience to figure out on their own.