The Shape of Things begins like many other stories. Boy meets girl—in fact, boy falls in love at first sight with girl—and the two embark on a whirlwind romance. But this time things take a detour, heading toward something much more sinister than a straightforward love story.
The Boston College Theatre Department production, which opened Thursday and runs until Sunday, is staged in the intimate Bonn Studio Theater, a fitting choice for a story that relies on claustrophobic tension to keep audiences on their toes. Directed by Christine Schmitt, MCAS ’20, The Shape of Things follows the appropriately named Adam (Alex O’Connor, MCAS ’20) as he enters a strange relationship with Evelyn (Hadley Durkee, MCAS ’20), an enigmatic MFA student. It’s an unlikely pairing—he works multiple jobs, while she lives a carefree, presumably upper-middle class lifestyle. He’s awkward and overweight, while Evelyn is beautiful and confident. Adam loves pop culture, while Evelyn only concerns herself with high art.
It soon becomes clear that there are unspoken rules to the relationship that both Adam and the audience have to slowly puzzle out. What is invisible and unsaid holds just as much—or even more—weight than the concrete. In the play’s opening scene, Evelyn ponders a statue on display at the museum where Adam works. It’s there that they first meet, at first discussing the statue, then each other. But on stage, there is no statue to speak of, only an empty podium that the actors gesture toward, circle, and peer at. The audience must fill in the blanks on its own.
In a similar vein, on the wall behind the actors hang five empty frames. As the play progresses, the actors fill the frames between scenes with props, creating an “exhibit” that subtly informs the arc of the story. Adam sheds parts of himself—his beloved corduroy jacket, the bump at the end of his nose—after being manipulated and pestered by Evelyn. The jacket and the surgery paperwork fill the frames, reminding the audience of all that Adam has given up for love.
“You are dangerously close to owning me,” an infatuated Adam says to Evelyn at one point.
The conflicts of another couple, Adam’s friend Phil (Garrett Gagnon, a senior at Pine Manor College) and his fiancée Jenny (Ally Lardner, Lynch ’21), bleed into Adam’s life. Gagnon perfectly captures the boorish Phil, the type of guy who wears sporty sunglasses at all hours and claims to not understand modern art, while Lardner encapsulates meek girl-next-door sweetness with her portrayal of Jenny. Unresolved sexual tension between Adam and Jenny eventually comes to a head, leading to a disastrous chain of events.
Dialogue-heavy scenes dominate The Shape of Things, but they’re broken up by creative interludes. After Adam and Evelyn’s first meeting, during which Adam tries to persuade Evelyn not to deface the statue, Adam exits the stage, and Evelyn is bathed in a harsh spotlight as she elegantly wields her can of spray paint. Later, a wordless vignette sandwiched between scenes shows Adam and Evelyn sleeping together for the first time. Blood-red light washes over the two as Evelyn slowly approaches him.
These elegantly choreographed moments unite the disparate scenes of the play, which span a series of months, into a fluid narrative. The Shape of Things pulls you in with the promise of an innocent romance only to leave you processing a brutal twist that’s nearly impossible to see coming. It’s messy and honest, and isn’t that what love—and art—is all about?
Featured Images by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor