When wielded by those with callous hearts, love can become a destructive emotional force, leaving only ruin in its wake.
Such is the painful truth confronted in the latest theater production by Jacksonville State University. “The Shape of Things,” written in 2001 by Neil LaBute, takes an unflinching look at love and relationships and what some people will forsake for the illusion of happiness. The plat was adapted into a movie starring Gretchen Moll, Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz.
“What does this play say about relationships?” director Susan McCain asks rhetorically. “I guess it’s saying they’re disposable. It’s sad, but it also seems to be showing us that some people can only find a sense of self by having ownership over someone else.”
“The Shape of Things” centers on Adam — a nerdy do-gooder with a big heart — who falls madly in love with Evelyn — a rebellious art school student. Adam’s best friends are Phillip and Jenny, who are engaged. Evelyn is a seductive predator who steadily sculpts Adam into someone he’s not — changing everything from his clothes to his diet. He gets a nose job. He abandons his best friends. All so that he can be with her.
And it was all a lie, a performance.
“ ‘The Shape of Things’ shows exactly what relationships are made of — fitting you into another person,” says 20-year-old Lauren Crider, who plays Jenny. “However, the play takes this to a dangerous limit by showing the horrible effects that are bound to happen when you put your vulnerability into the wrong hands.”
For Daniel King Jr., who plays Phillip, the play is but one example of what can go wrong when love becomes misguided.
“I know from experience that there are relationships solely based on superficiality — appearances, sex, drugs, etc.,” says the 23-year-old King. “But there are also relationships that are based on mutualism and substance, in that all members depend on and support each other, while being honest, communicative and considerate.”
McCain describes the play as a dark comedy.
“At least that’s what it will be if we do our jobs,” she says. “And that’s not going to be easy.”
The suggestion to perform “The Shape of Things” came from a JSU student. “Whether they’ve seen the play or the movie, this will be a story that college- and high school-age audiences will be all too familiar with everything that happens in this play,” McCain says. “And that’s jaw-dropping. But that’s the world today.”
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.
‘The Shape of Things’
• Oct. 11-13 and18-20 (Thursday-Saturday) at 7 p.m. and Oct. 14 and 21 (Sunday) at 2 p.m.
• Studio Theater, Stone Center for the Performing Arts, JSU
• JSU box office, 256-782-5648.