The Shape of Things
|The Shape of Things|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Neil LaBute|
|Produced by||Neil LaBute
|Written by||Neil LaBute (Play and screenplay)|
|Music by||Elvis Costello|
|Cinematography||James L. Carter|
|Edited by||Joel Plotch|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|May 9, 2003 (Limited)|
The Shape of Things is a 2001 play by American author and film director Neil LaBute and a 2003 American romantic drama film. It premièred at the Almeida Theatre, London in 2001 with Paul Rudd as Adam, Rachel Weisz as Evelyn, Gretchen Mol as Jenny, and Fred Weller as Phillip. The play was directed by LaBute himself. According to the author's instructions, it is to be performed without an interval or a curtain call.
Central themes in The Shape of Things focus on the nature of stoicism, art, psychopathy, intimacy, explorations of love, and people's willingness to do things for love. It is set in a small university town in the American Midwest and centers on the lives of four young students who become emotionally and romantically involved with each other.
In 2003, it was made into a film featuring the original cast.
When Adam Sorenson (Paul Rudd), an English Literature major at Mercy, a fictitious Midwestern college, meets Evelyn Ann Thompson (Rachel Weisz), an attractive graduate art student, at the local museum where he works, his life takes an unexpected turn. Never having the best success with women, he is flattered when Evelyn shows an interest in him and, at Evelyn's suggestion, begins a regular exercise regimen, eats healthier foods, dresses more stylishly, acts more confident and dominant, and purchases contact lenses. These initial changes regarding Adam's physical appearance are well received by Adam's friend, Phillip (Frederick Weller), and Phillip's fiancee, Jenny (Gretchen Mol). Jenny takes such a liking to Adam's new physique that she makes a move on Adam and the two share a passionate kiss. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not Adam and Jenny have sex. Later, Evelyn cajoles Adam into undergoing plastic surgery and succeeds in persuading him to cut himself off from Phillip and Jenny, whose relationship she ruins.
Eventually, Adam learns that he has been part of Evelyn's MFA thesis project, a topic often mentioned in conversation but never fully explained. Evelyn presents Adam to an audience of students and faculty as her creation, announcing that she had been instructed to "change the world" by her graduate adviser, but that she had chosen to "change someone's world" instead. Her work consisted of "sculpting" Adam into a more attractive human being. Accordingly, none of the feelings she has shown him throughout the film are genuine; at no stage in their "relationship" has she fallen in love with him; her videotapes of their lovemaking are simply part of the project's documentation. She also announces that she is not going to marry him and the engagement ring he offers her is simply one of the exhibits of her art installation, the "capper to my time at Mercy."
Publicly humiliated and devastated, Adam confronts Evelyn in the gallery (no one showed up to the Q&A afterwards), demanding an explanation for her actions. She responds by saying that he should in fact be grateful to her, claiming that, objectively speaking, she has been a positive influence on his life, making him a more attractive and interesting person in the eyes of society. He calls it a heartless joke, not art, and asks for the ring back, as it was his grandmother's. Evelyn agrees.
Finally, Adam stands alone in the gallery, crying, surrounded by the remnants of his life before and after Evelyn.
- Paul Rudd as Adam Sorenson
- Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Ann Thompson
- Gretchen Mol as Jenny
- Frederick Weller as Phillip
The play has been reprised several times with new casts: under the direction of Brian Rhinehart at the Bernie West Theater in New York City, in January 2011 at The Gallery Soho, in London, on Charing Cross Road with Tom Attenborough, director, and at the Arcola Theatre in 2013. Traditionally, the characters are named Adam and Evelyn (a reference to the story of "The Garden of Eden"), but if a production may wish a gender reversal, the two leads are Amy and Evan.
The Shape of Things is published in an acting edition by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
- Box Office Mojo
- Labute, Neil (2001) The Shape of Things, Queen Square, London: Faber and Faber.
- "Neil LaBute" at The Internet Movie Database. 21 Feb 2009 IMDb.
- Rush, David (2005) The Student Guide to Play Analysis, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.