No Vacancy Gallery
Jane Bell Lane – enter off Russell St.
March 7th – 24th.
Neil LaBute is perhaps most well known for his film script of In the Company of Men. This play, which dates from 2001, is the most exciting I have seen for years, both in terms of its content and structure, and of this production by Round Square Productions.
The Shape of Things deals essentially with the reasons for loving, why it happens and the reasons why it can die. To quote a synopsis from the programme: After meeting by chance in a museum, Adam begins an increasingly tense affair with the enigmatic Evelyn, who is gorgeous, intense, and way out of his league. Adam blossoms into the ideal boyfriend and an all-round better man. Then things spin totally out of control. Why and how this happens is explained in the penultimate scene, and her or she will be no friend of yours if they tell you what happens before you see it. But see it you must.
Not only is the play itself new, dangerous and exciting, but the performances are to match. Josh Blau as Adam creates a character who, while attractive in himself, cannot resist the transformations pressed on him by his new girl friend, Evelyn, played by Emily Wheaton. Josh communicates, in the most effective but understated manner the vulnerability of a young man, potentially good looking, but overweight, who is accustomed to view himself as a loser. Emily Wheaton creates a totally believable character is predatory and controlling in a manner that makes you suspect that, when she finally confesses her love for Adam, it is because she loves her new possession, Adam. No less impressive performances come from Stephanie Lillis and Peter Blackburn who play an engaged couple, friends of Adam, each self-destructive in their own way. Blackburn is egotistical and demanding; Lillis is a try-hard Ivy Leaguer who is yet to find out what she really wants from both love and life. None of the actors misses a beat. Everything is pared back to the point where the rawness of each personality is disconcertingly on display.
Despite occasional lapses into overwriting, the script is generally tight and constantly challenges the audience’s view of what love is, and how it can be manipulated.
There were some minor problems with the production. The cast was required to do too much shifting of props and parts of the set, which detracted somewhat from the sense of continuity. The use of small maquettes to indicate the change of scene was not particularly effective, specially considering there was a blank white wall at the back of the set, onto which could have been projected slides.
However, as far as this reviewer is concerned, for the first time in years I was presented with a play that was challenging and constantly stimulating, with a set of performances to match. It is exciting theatre. Go see it.