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The Shape of Things

Stamford Theatre Works, Stamford
--Irene Backalenick

Art or humanism? Do artists place their
work before personal relations? Indeed they
do, more often than not--as seen in real life
as well as theater. One has only to think of
Picasso, O'Neill, Strindberg, Pollock, to cite
a few examples. Most often, the wife or
mistress, nearest of kin, bears the brunt of
callous treatment.

And now playwright Neil LaBute gives a dramatic, unexpected twist to the theme, in "The
Shape of Things," newly-opened at Stamford Theatre Works. But this time the focus is on a
female artist, not a male, as usually found in the literature.

The story, briefly, deals with graduate students on a college campus: Evelyn, a hip young
graduate student, has an unusual plan for her master's thesis, carried out when she meets
Adam, a nerdy guard in an art museum. LaBute has an excellent ear for dialogue between
these types, and the story, under Douglas Moser's incisive direction, is consistently

But "The Shape of Things" is a good deal more than fun and games, as the final scene (not
to be revealed here) shockingly exposes. It is a piece which leaves one to mull over such
primal questions as the nature of art, existence, human relations. And though LaBute tends
to rattle on at length, as he wraps up the tale, "The Shape of Things" offers a final jolt.

Director Moser has assembled a fine quartet of players-Pepper Binkley, Ari Butler, Tess
Brown, and Will Poston, each one a creating sharply-etched distinctive character. But it is
their ensemble work which is most memorable-from the awkward moments when the four first
meet socially, to their subsequent meetings and couplings. The verbal exchanges, with
cut-off sentences and half-completed thoughts, are highly effective.

David Esler's set design (which accommodates the many short scenes) is serviceable, but
one wonders why two manikins remain on display throughout the play. The opening gallery
scene (in which Evelyn prepares to spray paint a statue) uses the manikins effectively, but
why do they continue to dominate the play? Is Moser drawing a comparison between
humans and robots? In any event, the many scene changes which involve manikin
maneuvers are distracting. Nor are they helped by the loud interim music, hip though it may

But, on balance, this is a production and play well worth seeing-both substantive and
entertaining-thanks to every one involved.

This piece will appear in the CT Post shortly after Mar. 15, 2008.

L-R, Will Poston, Pepper Binkley, Ari Butler
and Tess Brown