By Tara Bennett
When self-conscious Adam meets beautiful art student Evelyn, a girl who is out of his league, he is instantly infatuated. It may sound like the setup for a typical rom-com, but “The Shape of Things” is no light-hearted romantic comedy.
“It plays with a lot of the sort of stereotypical romantic comedy conventions that have popped up since the 1970s,” says director Neal Hebert.
Written by Neil Labute, the play deeply examines the nature of art, intimacy, self-perception and the search for love through the relationship between the characters of Adam and Evelyn. After a chance meeting in an art gallery, Adam and Evelyn embark on an intense romantic affair. At first, the coldly clinical Evelyn encourages the awkward Adam to get in shape, dress better and take care of himself. However, as the relationship progresses, Evelyn’s machinations to change Adam become increasingly sinister, driving a wedge between Adam and his close friends Jenny and Phillip before culminating into a shocking surprise reveal at the end.
“I’ve had, for the past two weeks, people who don’t know the script come to rehearsals to see runs, and they always react strongly to the twist, and that’s kind of a constant with that play,” said Hebert. “People who don’t see the twist coming kind of freak out a bit. I’m excited to see how people will respond.”
The play will kick off Theatre of Baton Rouge’s 2014-2015 Turner-Fischer City Series beginning on Thursday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m. and will run through Aug. 10 in the Studio Theatre. This production is intended for mature audiences only, and features adult language and adult content.
“It’s rated R,” said Hebert. “We want to be very clear to the Baton Rouge audience this isn’t ‘Our Town,’ this isn’t ‘Annie.’ This is for the most part not going to child-appropriate. It asks a lot of provocative questions. This is a little bit edgier than what Theatre Baton Rouge has done before.”
Hebert has been a director since he was 18 and is currently a PhD candidate in theatre history and historiography at LSU. This will be his first time directing for Theatre Baton Rouge. Hebert has a close history to “The Shape of Things,” having first been exposed at the play’s world premiere in London at the Almeida Theatre in 2001 where Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz originated the roles of Adam and Evelyn. He also served as dramaturge under the direction of Barry Kyle during the play’s American college premiere in 2003 at LSU. Hebert believes that “The Shape of Things” fits in perfectly with the Turner-Fischer City Series, which brings in edgier productions that appeal more to college-age audiences.
“When it came time to pick a show for TBR I wanted to pick something for the Turner-Fischer City Series that I thought younger people would like,” said Hebert. “Right now younger audiences don’t go to the theatre, and I think, rather than bemoan that fact, instead it’s up to the theatre artists to say ‘What can we do to appeal to these people to make them see that the theatre is for them as well.”
Hebert has cast Stephanie Toups as Evelyn with Stephen Horne as Adam while Alex DiLeo, Spencer LaBelle and Michael Hicks round out the cast.
“Everyone on the show has been very happy with how close and how respectful everyone is,” said Hebert. “My actors are giving performances with a lot of integrity and they’re really going for it. They’re being brave and I think that getting people to see that type of acting is something that people can really enjoy.”
Tickets are $20 individually, $18 for a group of 10 or more and $14 for Students. Student IDs are required when you come to the theater. There is a $1 handling fee per ticket. Tickets are on sale now in the Box Office. Pay What You Can Night is Thursday, July 31, at 7:30 p.m. All donations are accepted, but there is a $5 suggested minimum.
For more information about “The Shape of Things” and how to get tickets, call the Box Office at 225-924-6496, or visit our website at www.theatrebr.org.