The Shape of Things by Neil LaButeA startling dissection of cruelty and artistic creation from the author of In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors
In a modern version of Adams seduction by Eve, The Shape of Things pits gentle, awkward, overweight Adam against experienced, analytical, amoral Evelyn, a graduate student in art. After a chance meeting at a museum, Evelyn and Adam embark on an intense relationship that causes shy and principled Adam to go to extraordinary lengths, including cosmetic surgery, and a betrayal of his best friend, to improve his appearance and character. In the process, Evelyns subtle and insistent coaching results in a reconstruction of Adams fundamental moral character. Only in a final and shocking exhibition does Evelyn reveal the nature of her interest in Adam, of her detached artists perspective and sense of authority--to her, Adam is no more than flesh.... one of the most perfect materials on earth. Natural, beautiful, and malleable. Labutes latest work is an intense and disturbing study not only of the uses of power within human relationships, but also of the ethics involved in the relationship of art and life. To what extent is an artist licensed to shape and change her medium or to alter the work of another artist? What is acceptable artistic material? At what point does creation become manipulation, and at what point does creation destroy? Or, is the new Adam, handsome and confident if heart broken, an admirable result of the most challenging artistic endeavor? The Shape of Things challenges societys most deeply entrenched ideas about art, manipulation, and love.
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The music, selections by Smashing Pumpkins played at full volume, comes at you like a raging lawn mower. Heard before ''The Shape of Things,'' the seriously contrived new play by Neil LaBute, and between every scene, the songs are loud enough to pre-empt any attempt at conversation or, for that matter, thought. They also present an implicit challenge: are you strong enough to stomach the harsh truths that await you? Given that the author is Mr. LaBute, this would seem like fair warning. This is a writer, after all, who has built his reputation on presuming to know, like the Shadow, exactly what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
An English student and gallery attendant at an unnamed Midwestern university, Adam has fallen so hard for art grad student Evelyn Rachel Weisz that he will do anything for her — shed his corduroy jacket, have a nose job, stop biting his nails, let their sex be filmed. Away from the bedroom, he even agrees to forsake his affianced friends, Phillip Frederick Weller and Jenny Gretchen Mol , whose relationship is undergoing its own seismic shift. Collectively, they deserve the bow of which the staging deprives them, presumably because damage this hurtful leaves no room for cheers. Opened, reviewed May 30, Variety has announced the lineup for its second annual Business of Broadway breakfast presented by City National Bank.
W hat is art? Does creation carry with it any moral responsibility? These - and a host of other topics - are raised by Neil LaBute in this tantalising two-hour play. The problem is that the twist comes three-quarters of the way through, which means that the really big issues kick in very late in the day. Given LaBute's portrait of corporate brutality in his movie In the Company of Men, this piece at first seems bland. Evelyn, working on a graduate art project, picks up the nerdish Adam in a midwestern museum where she is about to paint a graffiti penis on a sculpture.