‘The Shape of Things’ Impresses

by Victoria Sullivan

Last Thursday, the spotlights came up on this year’s Theatre Guild production, “The Shape of Things.” Directed by senior Emileigh Burns, this play explores the potential of the human being, what they could be and what they shouldn’t be. Excellent performances, combined with a unique set design that cleverly reflected the theme of the play itself, made the performance well worth the long five months of preparation.

The story begins with Adam (sophomore Luke Meredith), an unassuming college student who has taken a security job at the university art gallery, where he meets Evelyn (sophomore Hayley Smallwood), a beautiful artist who is inches away from defacing a statue. As he tries to stop her, the two become interested in each other — especially Adam — and soon begin dating.

Adam’s insecurities and lack of confidence inspires Evelyn to encourage him to take the initiative in his life and change the things he dislikes about himself. Adam begins working out, eating healthier and buying new clothes — something he has not done in quite some time.

Adam soon takes Evelyn to meet his best friend Phillip (first-year Tony Del Grosso) and his fiancée Jenny (first-year Emily Novak), where they have a few drinks and friendly conversation. Soon, however, the subject of the defaced statue comes up, and Phillip denounces the graffiti as nothing but a childish prank. Offended by this judgment Evelyn challenges his statement, which eventually erupts into an all-out shouting match, ending the friendly get-together and setting the stage for the discord to come.

As the story unfolds, you see Adam continually changing himself, from his wardrobe to tattoos, and even a nose job, all at the casual urging of Evelyn. She praises his changes as the start of a new, confident Adam that she knew was hiding beneath his shy veneer.

Phillip and Jenny, however, see things in a different light. They confront Adam several times throughout the play about his changes, but not just the physical ones. His personality, too, seems to be undergoing a metamorphosis, and his friends are quite disturbed by this — and the role that Evelyn has in it.

From the beginning of the play, you are made aware that Evelyn is a senior preparing her thesis project: a piece of art that she has to work on for 18 weeks. The conflict culminates at this point. In a dramatic twist of irony, it turns out that Adam was her thesis project, and all of the changes that she coaxed him into making were her version of “shaping” her human sculpture.

After cruelly refusing his proposal of marriage as “morally questionable,” she goes into great detail about her artwork, explaining that all of her actions had been to keep Adam unaware of her true intentions. Jenny and Phillip, disgusted by Evelyn’s shocking actions, storm out of the auditorium, leaving only Evelyn and a heartbroken Adam.
Although Evelyn assures Adam that everything she did was for her art and her art alone, there does seem to be some sign that she did, indeed, care about him.

However, his heart has been hardened by her manipulation, and he pushes her away, repulsed by her apparent heartlessness. The final, poignant scene shows Adam alone on his pedestal, a single spotlight shining down on him, entirely alone.

The play itself was excellent and the performers quite believable, but what I enjoyed most was actually the set. Many factors went into making it a clear reflection of what the play was all about: shaping and reshaping the human image. It was remarkably simple, leaving the actual setting to the imagination.

What I found to be exceptionally clever was the fact that the stage was transformed into Evelyn’s thesis project, just as Adam was. The bits and pieces that Evelyn takes away from Adam were placed on display as the play progressed, but it is not until the climactic finish that you know what their purpose is.

Interchangeable parts on the set also contributed to this feeling of construction. Blocks set up in the center of the stage were moved as the play progressed, giving the actors different places to sit, stand and so forth.

In all, “The Shape of Things” was a stunning performance, one that left me contemplating the nature of humanity and the price we pay to tailor ourselves to others’ expectations.


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