Neil LaBute’s play “The Shape of Things,” is directed by Hugh O’Gorman and presented by the University Players of the CSULB Theatre Department, which wrapped up their three-week performance on December 6, 2008. This play was an emotional rollercoaster of intrigue, betrayal, manipulative seduction and love, questioning “how far would you go for a grade, for love, for art?”
Director O’Gorman had a vision and realized within the past eight years, that the First Amendment and censorship was being challenged. He wanted to push people out of their comfort zones, creating a thought process of what is ethical and what is art. This play not only targets the college age group, but also provoking people to think and relate to issues prevalent in today’s world.
With the advancement of technology, people have started to become more sheltered than when theatre was a popular American staple. He believes in making theatre that turns the audience on, regardless if they like the performance or not.
“It would be very difficult to try to get people (students) into our theatres, but if theatre starts to perform at happening places, such as coffee shops and hip venues, it may bring a curiosity back to theatre,” O’Gorman said.
This play did not come as easy as it looked. There were so many people involved, like any other show. Everyone on the team has creative and artistic qualities and wants certain things done their way. The collaboration between all perspectives had to be weaved together, articulating the theme of the play and using all art forms and staff from CSULB students.
It was a full house with no empty chairs in sight. The chairs surrounded the stage, which was set in the center like a Shakespearean arena, with four white screen panels on the walls to project graphic sexual images and videos, adding to the dramatic effect and emotion of the characters. O’Gorman’s vision was unique and creative with the use of nude interpretive dance, multimedia technology and old school acting skills. The actors brought a better interpretation and life to LaBute’s words, more than even LaBute could have imagined.
“I’m excited it has been sold out. The turnout has been great and the reactions from the audience are different every time,” Chris Chiquet said, who plays Adam.
“Some people hate the script, but definitely liked our show,” Juan Parada said, who plays Phillip.
The play opens with the characters walking on stage nude, already creating an essence of shock, intrigue and unexpected loss of focus.
“At first I’m scared and then when the show begins and I’m on stage, I immediately become comfortable,” Jocelyn Jolley said, who plays Evelyn.
The actors are very professional and know how to steer away from the uncomfortable nudity and bring it back to character’s dialogue. The underlying theme of the play is “how far would you go for a grade…for love…for art?”
The actors went nude and some even lost their jobs for their devotion to this play, the art and for the grade.
“It doesn’t feel too shocking because we are all adults,” Jolley said.
“I personally did not go fully nude. Wearing the nude-colored underwear was the farthest I’d go,” Ana Maria Buendia said, who plays Jenny.
“The Shape of Things” is a play about a dark and mordant look at male and female relationships. Adam (Chiquet) is a chubby, insecure, and nerdy college guy who works a few hours as a security guard at the university art museum. One night, he meets Evelyn (Jolley) who is caught wanting to deface a statue by spray painting a penis on its genital area. After arguing with her, they end up setting a dinner date.
Evelyn eventually becomes his girlfriend and she challenges his ideas about art and morality. She begins to mold him into what she wants Adam to be as a boyfriend. He introduces her to his best friends, Phillip (Parada) and his fiancée Jenny (Buendia). The longer Adam stays with Evelyn, his friends notice drastic changes in his weight, hairstyle, clothing and having more of a confident personality. Phillip sees the change is not for the best and becomes concerned for Adam.
As Act two begins, Adam’s confidence leads to his affair with Jenny, betraying and lying to Evelyn and Phillip and destroying their friendship. Evelyn invites them all to her Master thesis presentation to find out that Adam was nothing but an experiment, a revelation for being her human sculpture.
“I never looked at human beings as a form of art. It was a very interesting play,” freshman Arturo Mejia said.
The University Players will return with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in March, directed by Elizabeth Swain.