The current show at Quannapowit Players is "The Shape of Things" by Neil LaBute. This show is a thought-provoking look at art and intimacy in the lives of four young students who become emotionally and romantically involved with each other. It is an exciting and contemporary drama that explores what lengths a person will go to for love. Even though it is a drama there are many laughs in the first act. The author makes the point very early in his show that Art is subjective and he uses this to set up the premise about the cruel games a more powerful partner can play with a smitten weaker one. It is set in a conservative Midwestern town during the Spring Semester at Mercy College, a liberal arts college. Zany graduate art student Evelyn meets nerdy, overweight English literature major Adam while she is trying to spray paint genitalia on a sculpture she doesn't approve of. Evelyn seduces Adam, introducing him to a world of sex and intimacy that he has only dreamt of. Adam changes his image to please her and over a period of time he becomes more popular as others see his desirability. He changes his behavior, diet, clothing, lifestyle and even has plastic surgery on his nose. Adam's conventional roommate, Phillip argues with Evelyn's politics and dislikes the changes in Adam. However, Philip's fiancee, Jenny finds the new Adam attractive which leads them into a kiss on a park bench. Phillip and Evelyn retaliate with their own kiss. Evelyn gives Adam an ultimatum that he breaks his friendship with Philip and Jenny or she will leave him. Adam agrees not to see either of them again. The culmination of all these events occur with Evelyn's masters thesis which she presents directly to the audience, stunning one and all. This scene and the final one are both shocking and compelling, supplying the audience the answers to what they have just witnessed. To reveal any more details would spoil the show for the audience. Director Nancy Curran Willis does a magnificent job with her insight into the human spirit, forcing you to decide whether the thesis is really an art form you approve or disapprove of. Her four member cast captivates you with their intense portrayals of these characters, delivering an award winning performance while doing so.
Nancy is aided in her task by topnotch people especially stage manager, Judy Forgione with her crew that keeps changing things for each scene, the lighting designer, Jason Benagh and projection designer, Jon Sachs who has different areas of the campus on the screen. Also impressive is Evelyn's slide show in the thesis scene. Marc Capizzi who also does the hair and makeup for the show, gives an opening speech that is hilarious. Gordon Ellis does an excellent job as Adam. He makes the transition from nerd to heart throb with ease. Adam follows all of Evelyn's demands until the last one and then becomes the mouse that roars. Gordon's sympathetic portrayal is fantastic and when he blows his stack at her bitchy behavior, it becomes a stand up and cheer moment for the audience. Some of his descriptions of her include "Nice ass" when they first meet and later on "Did you forget your Ritalin?" gets a huge laugh near the close of the show.The conniving and manipulative, Evelyn is excellently played by Kristen Dattoli who is a gorgeous brunette. She makes this sexy character come to life in many scenes including taping Adam and Evelyn's lovemaking, having oral sex under the sheets and having sex in the men's bathroom while he is waiting for plastic surgery. Evelyn spraypaints the statue because she considers it fake art because the small town covered the genitals with a grape leaf. Underneath the loving and sexual feelings that Evelyn has for Adam, is a cold-hearted determination that the audience can't place until the thesis scene. It is this scene and the next one where Kristen's acting as this self centered seductress makes you want to jump up and choke her for her callous behavior. Kristen plays the role so well that you want to boo her at the end of the show.
Bill Stambaugh is topnotch as he plays Adam's know-it-all ex-roommate, Philip. Phillip has a small town mentality which runs his life and he becomes jealous of Adam's transformation because it puts him on equal footing with him on how to be attractive to women. Bill's argument scene with Kristen is taut, filled with tension and beautifully portrayed by both of them. (It must have been difficult to argue with each other since they are dating each other in real life.) Some of Phil's insults include she must give good blow jobs and to Adam about the nose job, cut out the Oprah talk. His awkward questioning scene with Gordon about what happened with Jenny is well done, too. I have reviewed Bill in numerous productions and he always delivers the goods whether in a sympathetic or villainous role.(The first show I reviewed him in was "Ragtime" in 2003 where he played a killer.) Jenn Shea is marvelous as the sympathetic, Jenny who puts up with Philip's chauvinistic behavior. Her eventual admiration and sexual attraction for Adam are wonderfully handled as is her confrontation scene with Kristen. Jenn gives the show its humanistic side. Be sure to catch "The Shape of Things'' for its clever look at the underside to the younger generation's obsession with obtaining beauty at any cost and how it shapes a person's relationship with their closest friends. Nancy is an award winning director and this show is one more feather in her cap.