On its surface, Neil LaBute’s “The Shape of Things” concerns itself
with two romances of mismatched college students, but there’s a good
deal going on beneath that surface.
This West Coast premiere, at the Laguna Playhouse through June, has a
lot to say about relationships, but that’s just the warmup for a jarring
climactic sequence which, obviously, cannot be discussed here. Suffice
it to say that all is not what it seems, even though this phrase
normally is employed to describe Agatha Christie mysteries.
The only mystery here is what these two couples see in each other.
Each pair contains one abrasive, dominant personality and one meeker,
more “normal” member, and audiences will be pulling for these latter two
to discover one another before either gets hurt.
Director Richard Stein has cast four performers who give off the
requisite sparks and create rich, full-bodied characters -- opposites
who attract one another, even though the male in one relationship would
seem ideally suited to the female in the other. Secrets and lies abound,
with treachery raising its head in the highly charged finale.
The main couple are Evelyn (Stacy Solodkin) and Adam (Michael Eric
Strickland), who “meet cute” in the play’s opening scene. He’s a college
student working part time as a museum guard and she’s a young art
student about to deface a sculpture with a spray can -- to restore its
creator’s intent before censorship neutralized the work some years back.
Somehow, these two form a relationship, with the shy, relatively
inexperienced Adam strongly attracted to the headstrong, anarchistic
Evelyn -- and amazed that she returns his feelings. Their genial
put-downs of one another come from different artistic genres which
neither recipient can comprehend. Under her influence, he gradually
sheds his nerdish accouterments and allows himself to be made over into
a more suitable lover.
Solodkin excels as the budding artist, seamlessly guiding the
reticent Strickland through a series of physical and emotional
alterations. Strickland relishes this onrush of romance, even though
there’s an element of yearning for his roommate’s fiancee -- who could
have been his a few years ago if he’d taken appropriate action.
Robyn Cohen gives this latter role an appealing, emotionally
perplexed quality, and what she’s doing with Jay Boyer’s Philip is
anybody’s guess. Boyer portrays his insensitive, almost ruthless
character splendidly, as a predator ready to strike at the first sign of
Eventually, both relationships reach their breaking point, but one of
the four has a chilling valedictory that will outrage the audience. This
“gotcha,” from the fertile mind of playwright LaBute, is splendidly
orchestrated by director Stein and his fine foursome of players.
That “The Shape of Things” is giving its West Coast premiere in
Laguna Beach is quite appropriate, since the subject of art appreciation
is an integral part of the play. Laguna’s own artists will have a great
time dissecting this one.
CUTLINE: Michael Eric Strickland and Stacy Solodkin enjoy a romantic
moment in ‘The Shape of Things’ at the Laguna Playhouse.
CUTLINE: Jay Boyer (left) and Stacy Solodkin (second from right)
nearly come to blows as their significant others Robyn Cohen and Michael
Eric Strickland attempt to restore order in “The Shape of Things” at the
Laguna Playhouse. (Photos by Ed Krieger)
WHAT: ‘The Shape of Things’
WHERE: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach WHEN:
Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8, Sundays at 2
and 7 until June 30
COST: $38 - $45
PHONE: (949) 497-2787