By JOHN BONAZZO
The second half of Fordham’s theater season gets off to an exciting start with the Mimes and Mummers’ production of Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things, an incisively visceral story told with bold staging and great actors.
The play tells the story of Adam, a college student moonlighting as a museum guard who meets Evelyn as she is about to deface a piece of art. Despite this inauspicious beginning, the two hit it off through their shared love of the arts and Adam’s wish to live a healthier life, which Evelyn encourages. She gets off to a rocky start with Adam’s friend Phillip, however, alienating him and placing his fiancée Jenny, a seemingly neutral party, in an awkward position. Different, seemingly small events transpire as the play goes on that put the faithfulness of these relationships into question. The four characters wrestle with their differences and loyalties as the play goes on, and emotions come to a head at a thesis presentation that gives the play a wholly unexpected climax.
Director Max Gosman ensures that the tension and humor in every scene of LaBute’s crackling script comes through crystal clear. To facilitate audience involvement, he has configured the stage as a “theatre in the round,” with the spectators seated onstage so they are right to top of the intimate, tense proceedings. This means that the set is small, utilizing only simple pieces of furniture, but it also makes the show’s impact that much greater. Different classic paintings are projected on a scrim as the play goes on, to accent the show’s artful themes. This is a more experimental setup than the Mimes are known for, but for this show it works perfectly.
The four actors are a tight, terrific ensemble. Nora Geraghty, as Evelyn, deftly captures the free-spirited, manipulative nature of many artists; she is reminiscent of Ellen Page, and that sensibility is perfect for the role. Joe Gallagher shows Adam’s transformation from ugly duckling to cool cat with craft and charisma, which makes the character’s ultimate fate that much more tragic. Josh Silverman plays Phillip as someone who, while at times contemptible, the audience does feel sympathy for, and this duality is well-portrayed. Marielle Rivera shows Jenny’s transformation from innocent to independent woman with real feeling; as an audience surrogate, she shows that the real world of relationships is much rockier than it seems.
The Shape of Things is an adventurous step for the Mimes, which they have pulled off thanks to ingenious staging and a top-flight cast. After this successful first try, the Mimes would do well to look for more ways to push the theatre envelope in the future.