Neil LaBute’s THE SHAPE OF THINGS we meet some fairly unlikeable people doing things that boggle the mind a little. But we also see what might be the most interesting and hate-able villain ever seen on stage.
These contrasting issues make New Edgecliff’s current production an interesting one, for sure. It’s also a hard one to review without spoiling anything so bear with me.
The acting ranges from solid to outstanding, highlighted by the work of Rebecca Whatley as “Evelyn.” As an artist, Evelyn takes pride in her identity. Creating art is all that she does much to the dismay of the other characters in the play.
Matthew Krieg plays “Adam,” a young man who falls in love with Evelyn. And I mean he’s all in. Carter Bratton is very funny as his best friend, an abusive jerk named “Phil,” while Leah Strasser rounds out the cast as “Jenny,” in yet another unique and different performance for her. She can do it all. Brian Berendts plays a statue in a physically demanding cameo (I didn’t notice it was an actor at first; that’s a huge compliment.)
LaBute is an acquired taste as a playwright. Often his plays feature unlikable people doing despicable things to one another. It takes good direction, talented acting, and good pacing to make it all come together. Director Elizabeth Harris does a nice job staging the piece in the vast Hoeffner Lodge, making the most out of a difficult canvas with which to paint her theatre art. The play does feel too long, which may have been exacerbated by the program stating that it was only 90 minutes. In actuality, it ran about two hours and fifteen.
While the play is long, the climactic scene featuring a remarkable monologue by Whatley is a sight to behold. I’ve not felt that kind of tension in awhile; I was uncomfortable but in an entertaining, exciting way. Her performance and the way the scene is staged makes the play one worth seeing in my book.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS runs through April 30th at the Hoeffner Lodge in Northside. As an FYI: You do need to walk up steps to access the performance space and the restroom is even farther up. In good news, they have replaced the uncomfortable, flimsy plastic chairs with metal, padded folding ones. Tickets and more information can be found here.