The Shape of Things
by Seth Rogovoy
(SHEFFIELD, Mass., August 8, 2003) – What are the four words I most dread hearing during the summer? “Two hours without intermission.” And that’s how things started off last night at Barrington Stage’s production of “The Shape of Things” by Neil LaBute.
But then the play started, and the next two hours went by in the wink of an eye as we were totally engrossed in this gripping, entertaining, funny, tense, provocative and at times shocking drama.
“The Shape of Things” is terrific, one of the best and very likely the best play I will have seen by the time the end of the summer rolls around.
Neil LaBute is perhaps best known for his movies, In the Company of Men, and Your Friends and Neighbors, and here he brings the same sharp, cutting sensibility to this play concerning four 20somethings in a generic small Midwestern college town.
It’s a perverse update on My Fair Lady, in which Evelyn, an art graduate student, takes on the seemingly innocent makeover of her shnooky boyfriend, Adam.
Evelyn is played by the fabulous Caralyn Kozlowski, who is fabulous – as in SHE IS FABULOUS -- in every meaning of the word in this very sexy play.
Kozlowski’s is a remarkable performance, fully inhabiting her role, so that she is utterly believable and compelling at the same time that she grows ever more creepy, in the sort of role that LaBute usually writes for men, but which is all the more powerful here because the tables are turned and it is a woman who is seemingly ruthless and amoral. And Kozlowski is totally up to the task – we can’t take our eyes off of her, nor do we want to, as she works her magic on Adam and on the audience.
The rest of the cast is terrific too, particularly Will Beinbrink, as Adam’s concerned and outraged friend, Philip.
Brian Henderson as Adam undergoes an amazing transformation in front of our eyes, seemingly dropping 20 pounds over the course of the play and transforming from a finger-biting nerd to a confident strutting peacock.
Jessica Hency is also fine as Jenny, Philip’s hometown girlfriend.
LaBute’s sharp, snappy dialogue is terrific. He’s really turning out to be the next Pinter or Mamet. He’s able to get across a play brimming with ideas about the intersection between art and life without ever seeming false or to be feeding his characters speeches disguised as dialogue.
Intermission or not, I wish more – or even all -- plays were like “The Shape of Things” at Barrington Stage.
[Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]
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