OSWEGO — The SUNY Oswego theatre department next month will present playwright Neil LaBute’s romantic drama “The Shape of Things,” a “shocking” production that exposes four college students entangled in relationships to harsh life lessons about moral conflicts.
The college’s fall production will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, Nov. 7 to 9, as well as at 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 11.
All five performances are in Waterman Theatre of Tyler Hall.
LaBute is an American author and film director whose play premiered in London in 2001. “The Shape of Things” in Oswego’s production takes place at a liberal arts college in California, spotlighting characters that deal with modern-day “college issues” — and more.
Reviewer Ben Brantley in The New York Times said the play and its staging “present an implicit challenge: Are you strong enough to stomach the harsh truths that await you?”
Director Mya Brown of SUNY Oswego’s theatre department sees “The Shape of Things” as still relevant because of the issues it deals with, and thinks that students — and any audience member who has been in an all-consuming relationship — will be able to relate.
“It’s shocking, it’s very in your face. I think it will inspire some debate and conversation whether the characters’ actions were moral or justified,” said Brown.
The play centers on Adam, a shy and awkward young man whose sudden love interest, the artist Evelyn, makes a project of him.
Evelyn (theatre and cinema and screen studies dual major Cassandra Slough) subtly works to alter the physical traits of Adam (broadcasting and mass communication major Adam Sommer) — his appearance, mannerisms, clothes and, ultimately, his moral character — so he can become someone she thinks is more appealing to society.
The two other roles feature Natalie Griffin as Jenny and Alex Forrest as Phillip. The cast is made up of only eight people (four are understudies), while the behind-the-scenes students, faculty and staff total 18 in the crew and a production team of nearly 30.
Brown said the full understudy cast will perform in two of the productions.
Nicole Caroselli is the stage manager and one of the student dramaturgs — specialists in dramatic research — for the production team.
She said the play dissects relationships: “It’s a lot of showing how someone will dedicate themself to their partner; it’s big in society now.”
Evelyn progressively alters Adam’s physical appearance in a manipulative manner.
Slough describes her character as a “manipulative and obsessive person. She thinks what she is doing is right because it’s for art.”
The play raises difficult questions about life, art and morality.
“It’s entertaining as well as thought-provoking,” said Griffin, who says her character Jenny is “authentic” because “she’s very true to herself and her art.”
“When people are in relationships, they lose themselves,” she said. “The play sheds a lot of light on that.”
Michaela Buckley, cast as understudy to Slough’s character, said, “Evelyn’s perspective on things is subjective. She doesn’t care who she hurts in her pursuit of truth. She’s trying to find the truth in what society thinks is perfect.”
As Adam on stage, Sommer emphasizes his lines and evolving character with his body language.
To stress specific lines, he tries to change his posture to put more tension on his shoulders, his neck area and the way he leans in and out.
“I don’t just use my voice or my facial features. I want to get physically into the character as well,” he said, adding, “We have the (play’s) words to use and those are our tools.”
Despite the play’s tensions, Sommer describes the relationships within the cast as “good chemistry on and off stage.”
For insight into the production’s dramaturgical research, visit the play’s research hub, https://sites.google.com/oswego.edu/shapehub/home, developed by students in Toby Malone’s “Production Dramaturgy” course.
Tickets for “The Shape of Things ” are $15 ($7 for students with a current SUNY Oswego ID) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141.
Parking is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the employee and commuter lots in front of Culkin Hall and behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls.
People with disabilities needing assistance should call 315-312-3073 in advance of a performance.