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The Shape of Things

The Shape of Things
Corn Stock Winter Playhouse
November 14-15 & 20-23

By Stan Strickler


Neil LaBute has been called a misanthrope of the theater, and I think that title is well deserved after seeing “The Shape of Things” at the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse. What begins as a rather amusing and sweet love story ends in utter cruelty and disappointment for the main character. One of LaBute’s early works, “In the Company of Men” showed us male cruelty to a deaf woman whom the men pursued and then dumped. “The Shape of Things” turns the tables and shows us a woman professing love only to reveal her true feelings in a very humiliating manner.

The play revolves around Adam, a somewhat nerdy college student and part time security guard at an art museum. There he meets Evelyn and art major who seems bent on defacing a statue of a male nude torso simply because a fig leaf has been added to it. At first he seems frightened of her but quickly warms to her seemingly quirky personality. Eventually he falls in love with her and changes himself completely, losing weight, working out, getting contacts and finally a nose job to please her and show his love for her. Not until the harrowing conclusion of the play do we find out her true motives in the whole affair.

The subplot involves Adam’s best friend Phillip and his fiancĂ© Jenny whom Evelyn can’t stand. Eventually they break off their engagement after several dramatic scenes more or less manipulated by Evelyn. She finally becomes the catalyst for all the misery in the play.

Director Christopher Gray has assembled a remarkable cast all of whom give this rather disturbing work life. Andrew Jon Rhodenbaugh as Adam begins as a shy rather nervous type and we have no trouble believing that his has not had much luck with women. In the first scene he seems all nerves and a bundle of insecurities and he tries to dissuade Evelyn from defacing a statue. As he becomes more confident his whole being changes as he stands taller, has a more positive air about him, and seems truly in love.

Rebekah Dentino begins the play as an opinionated art student who becomes intrigued with Adam. She alternated throughout the play as the confident artist and a sweet young woman who wants the best for her boyfriend. In the end her utter cruelty becomes obvious in the final harrowing scene of the play. Cody Cornwell as Phillip becomes the perfect foil for Adam as he alternately challenges him and sympathizes with him. His anger at the end of the play is very believable and shows his loyalty to his friend. Alex Buchko as Jenny is all innocence and sweetness as she confronts the various characters. She too is quite able to express a range of emotions in several short scenes.

The main set piece of the play, a sculpture of a male nude torso, is very well done. It is given center stage and it becomes even more important as a metaphor for the place of art in peoples lives as Evelyn sculpts Adam into a “perfect boyfriend.” The set consists of two benches and several platforms and works quite well for the various scenes, and allowing for quick scene changes. There are ten scenes in the play and had it not been for the suggestive sets and use of furniture, the play would have dragged and lost momentum.

Credit must be given also to the technical crew: assistant director Liz Scoville, light designer Megan Larke, sound design by Liz Scoville and Andrew John Rhodenbaugh, costumes by Jess Hemmis, props by Crhis Gray, Liz Scoville and the cast. In general, this was a wonderful production of a disturbing play expressing the cruelty that people can inflict on others in order to satisfy their own desires.

The Shape of Things continues at Corn Stock Winter Playhouse Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and are available at the Corn Stock box office, by calling 309-676-2196 or online at
www.CornStockTheatre.com

Posted November 17, 2014