Reviews are often designed to accomplish one of two things: either to convince readers to become audience members (or vice versa) or to relate criticism on the piece so as to cause scholarly debate and discussion.
This reviewer will attempt to do both of these things to a degree, without giving away unnecessary spoilers.
Neil LaBute’s “The Shape of Things,” starring Troy University theatre majors Psacoya Guinn, Baine Ellis, Halley Tiefert and Noah Williams is designed to exacerbate, agitate, confuse, confound and at times outright offend its audience, all for the purposes of furthering the exploration of what responses theater and art in general can elicit from audiences.
Such responses include delight, disgust, shock and horror at the crises of identity faced by the four college-aged adults in this very modern play.
The central point of conflict, Evelyn, played by Guinn, causes each of the characters (and, in turn, the audience) to question what they think they know about themselves and their relationships with the people they call their friends and rethink the actions they so often tell themselves they would never take in the name of love or hate.
The ostensible protagonist, Adam, played by Ellis, receives the brunt of this force and manipulation from Evelyn, done seemingly for his betterment, with his best friends Phillip and Jenny (Williams and Tiefert) merely pawns on the board.
One of the best parts of the show was the ensemble work between these four actors of varying experience coming together to create a very solid, tangible world between them.
The scenes featuring at least three and all four of the actors were by far the most interesting and dynamic in the show.
Another interesting aspect of the ensemble work done in the show was the inclusion of other actors not in the cast list to help make scene transitions more fluid by changing set pieces for the actors while also in character.
These technical actors also helped as “set pieces” in their own right, providing something for the actors in the scenes to interact with and play off of, as well as setting the scene for new locations like coffee shops, restaurants and parks.
The use of space in the fairly small black box style theater of Malone Hall was exceptionally well done.
Simple black-painted stand ins, LED lighting and screen projections did so much to convey rapid and drastic change of scene, while technical actors were able to distract the audience from feeling like they were trapped in an hour and a half scene change.
This is a play for this century and the centuries to come and a play that needed to be seen on this campus.