Recommended *** The newest production brought to the stage by the Eclectic Full Contact Theatre (I will make an effort to explain this, as best I can) is a difficult one to review. The play, “The Shape of Things” is written by a name very familiar to Chicago Theater audiences, Neil LaBute. In fact, I was truly surprised to see this five year old company reach out to his work, but in all fairness to the company, they surprised me with an excellent production. One of the problems with a young theater company is not having a permanent home of their own, having to find spaces to do their shows. In this case, they have chosen to use the second floor studio at the Athenaeum Theatre, located at 2936 N. Southport (at Lincoln Avenue). I must say, this is a very uncomfortable venue. They have improved it somewhat by changing the seating to more padding and far more comfortable, but the stage is still below us and while the sight lines are okay, watching a play here is difficult (at best)!
In the case of “The Shape of Things”, a comedy that deals with art, love, reality and how everything we see is not exactly how we see it. I know that sounds mysterious, and there is a reason it does. This play has some true surprises within its two hours of action. NO INTERMISSION! I think the reason for not breaking the show into two acts is just that. There are far more surprises that get the audience more involved with the characters and the story. Smoothly directed by Katherine Siegel, our story takes place in a small college town, where everyone knows everyone and what they are doing and with whom.
We begin our journey in an art museum. Evelyn, a college student who majors in art is preparing to spray paint one of the exhibits when Adam, a part time security guard confronts her. She flirts with him and he responds. Adam ( powerfully played by Andy Blaustein) is a true “nerd” who appears to be the young man that always gets left behind. Yet, this very attractive blonde, Evelyn ( Michelle Annette truly reminds me of all the powerful women I have come up against in my career) seems to have eyes for him. This might surprise many, but it just might be possible that these young students see more in each other than we do.
Adam’s best friend and ex-roomie, Phillip (deftly handled by Josh Leeper) is engaged to Jenny (Martha Reddick) who long ago was Adam’s first love, yet he never expressed his feelings or made advances, thus his room-mate, a far more outgoing personality, made the move and “won the prize” (so to speak). We do see that Evelyn and her ideas and ideals cause a great deal of friction between Adam and Phillip and Jenny. This comes into play later in the story. Most of the story deals with the love that appears to grow stronger every day between Adam and Evelyn (one might be drawn to say, Adam and Eve) as she shows him the ways he can change and become more of what he always wanted to be. They have wild sex, anywhere, any time and every day, the e-mails we read on the wall projections show how much he cares for her.
Again, not wanting to spoil this intensely powerful story, I can only tell you that there are lots of surprises, and that what we think is about to take place, is not exactly what it appears to be. This divine cast, makes it work and keeps us in limbo. The end will shock you and in some cases, dismay you, but I can guarantee that you will be discussing what you saw with other audience members. The technical aspects of the show were handled by Laura Carney (set design and paining on walls), with the projections and lights by Patrick Iven. Justin Atkinson managed the props, and the costumes were done by Catherine Tantillo. I would love to see this play done in a larger more comfortable venue, so more people can enjoy the story, which by the way, is told very well. The questions you will ask yourself as you leave the theater is just how much of what we know about each other is truth? How much of what we read on all the social media outlets is real? Do people put up their secrets? Or just what they want us to believe (or think)?
Now back to the company. Their Mission Statement is to bring their audiences challenging works. They promise to cultivate reciprocal relationships with their audience and to share their passions with the passionate.
“The Shape of Things” will continue at The Athenaeum Theatre, Studio 2, at 2936 N. Southport Avenue through March 6th with performances as follows:
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Saturdays matinees at 2 p.m. on February 27th and March 5th
Tickets are $25 and $30 with open seating. To order yours call 1-773-935-6875 or visit www.eclectic-theatre.com
There is parking on the area streets and some metered spots. I have never had a problem finding an easy space.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Shape of Things”.