In ten scenes, Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things depicts the seduction and transformation of a socially awkward young man by a vivacious post-grad art student whose motives are anything but romantic.
Literature major Adam (played here by Samson Alston) is working off his student loan in an art gallery. There he encounters Evelyn (Georgia Brindley), armed with a can of spray paint and determined to make her mark on a statue.
The artwork – a male nude – is false, she explains, having had its genital area covered by the local prudes. Truth matters a great deal to Evelyn, who, as they play unfolds, becomes something of a hypocrisy-seeking missile.
Adam and Evelyn start to date and she opens him up to new worlds of intimacy and coolness. She persuades him to hit the gym, loose some weight and upgrade his clothes. At her insistence, Adam even submits to a nose job.
Adam’s former college roommate Phillip (Tayman Jamae) views the transformation with suspicion. Not so Phillip’s fiancée Jenny (Olivia Hall-Smith), who now finds herself attracted to her guy’s newly renovated best friend.
The staging is skimpy and director-agent Les Solomon’s cast is inexperienced, but all prove competent in navigating LaBute’s twists and turns.
The Shape of Things develops in 10 taut scenes and Adam’s evolution is convincingly charted by Alston. His performance allows us to feel something of the sting Adam experiences when Evelyn springs her surprise.
Jamae plays Phillip as a hearty jock. Hall Smith is very good as Jenny, the bystander collaterally damaged in Evelyn’s scheme.
Brindley has a suitably commanding presence but her body language – a busy repertoire of contrapposto stances and heavy shrugs – needs to tone down. At the moment, everything that should be covert in Evelyn is being furiously telegraphed.