WHERE DOES art stop and crassness begin? Such is the question asked by director Lawrence Ballard and the cast of The Shape of Things, a Neil Labute play coming to Mondanaro Theatre this week.
The story revolves around a group of college students including long term friends Adam and Phillip, one’s fiancé and the other’s new girlfriend. Adam is duped by his love interest and the fallout and mayhem of one couple effects each of the other relationships in turn until there’s little left but anger and confusion. Manipulation in the name of art — but when the canvas is a human being, how far is too far?
“People are going to argue over who is wrong and right,” says Ballard. “I hope it provokes intense discussion among artists at school about the limits of the artist.”
Daniel Molina, who plays Phillip, agrees, adding, “Dealing with art and subjectivity, it’s so important to keep questioning truth, and it’s exciting to know that we’re playing to a crowd of our peers who know and understand that question so well.”
Shape is certainly being offered up to the artists at SCAD and those within the community as a conversation starter, but creative aims aside, it is still a riveting play about relationships. What if your best friend can’t stand your girlfriend? How do you cope when your friend changes beyond recognition?
“Adam goes through this huge transformation,” explains Richard Mooney, who plays Adam,” and it’s hard to play into that arch because he’s still self-conscious, but very intelligent at the same time. “
Robyn Rebecca Young’s challenge with her character, Evelyn, is keeping the seemingly inhuman artist accessible. “I’m focusing on making sure the audience can relate to Evelyn. It’s easy to feel for other characters, but with her it’s more difficult, people want to write her off as bad.”
“I hope the audience comes away without any one character in mind as being completely virtuous and right,” explains Alisyn Reid, who plays Jenny. “I hope they see humanity and goodness in everyone even if they seem particularly flawed in the show.”
These intense characters are part of a play where nothing is written ‘just because,’ where every word has meaning. Ballard and the cast are dedicated to pursuing every nuance and really supporting the work of the playwright. “This is such a subtle play,” says Molina.” We’re really digging into everything Labute gives us, but still working our own spin on it.”
That spin has to be the show’s fluidity and ease of dialogue. The timing between the characters is spot on and pulls you in quickly. The realistic nature of their interactions makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping, and the effect is that you’re intensely wrapped up in the words and emotions of those on stage.
“In this show everything works right, everything clicks and comes together,” says Molina. “People are going to see something that stays with them and pokes them in the head.” cs
The Shape of Things
When: Feb. 12-14 at 8 p.m., Feb. 15 at 3 p.m.
Where: Mondanaro Theatre, 217 MLK Jr. Blvd.
Info: 912-525-5050 or www.scadboxoffice.com