Theater Review: The Shape of Things
Performed by Dallas Theater Center
in the Wyly Studio Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center
© The Flash List | March 5, 2010
Photos by Brandon Thibodeaux
“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
Kelly LeBrock in a 1980’s commercial for Pantene shampoo
& a line of dialogue from The Shape of Things
Oh, how our society adores a beautiful face and hates it at the same time.
In the first of three works collectively known as The Beauty Plays, playwright Neil LaBute addresses the conflict of striving for physical perfection while maintaining personal integrity.
The Shape of Things tells the story of Adam, an overweight college student who falls in love with Evelyn, a sexy graduate art student. But this is not a cute little light-hearted romantic comedy. It is not showy musical theater with costumes and props and song and dance that causes you to skip out of the theater humming the tune of that catchy closing number.
Quite the opposite. It’s a hard-hitting and insightful look at the perception of beauty in society, fairness in relationships, and even morality, responsibility, and guilt as motivators. And it is amazingly accurate. And it’s fair as well, examining one side of an issue and then whipping around to explore the other.
The Beauty Plays are running in repertory (rotation) in the Wyly’s 6th floor studio black box theatre (an intimate space with minimal props); and in this case, the scene was set by images projected onto the wall along with bouncy jazz music.
This clean stage setup served to highlight the four characters and offered no elaborate visual effects to distract you from pondering such statements as:
“She likes it; but what I wanna know is, do you like it?”,
“Why do you like me?”, and
“He’s six things away from being amazing.”
Some of the interactions between performers were uncomfortable; and at times characters were even downright unlikable. But that’s the point. It’s an exploration of what’s good and bad in society. For instance, if you help make someone ‘better’ physically, are you doing them a favor or is it just cruel emotional manipulation? And what constitutes ‘better’ anyway?
Be aware that the dialogue in this production is quite frank and at times explicit with mature themes and sexual situations. But the language is authentic, and in many ways even necessary.
Overall we enjoyed the intensity of the program; and are looking forward to the next two plays in the series, Fat Pig and reasons to be pretty.
And if you feel inclined, we recommend sticking around after the show for the Dallas Theater Center’s thought-provoking post-show discussion. People seem to have extremely strong views and perceptions of the material which can be the catalyst for lively conversation which we found to be quite entertaining itself.