By Thom deMartino
When it comes down to it, who are we — really? Are our identities in the eye of the beholder that perceives us: or are we instead the sum of our experiences and actions, knowledge and nature?
Addressing these and other quandaries of the self and relationships is the production of “The Shape of Things,” finishing an all-too-brief run at Golden West College in the Stage West Theater (a smaller campus venue adjacent to the Mainstage Theater.)
The humdrum life of Adam (Brent Bannister) is turned on its ear by his chance encounter with a vivacious young woman who crosses the line — literally and metaphorically — in the art gallery of the college he attends. As she prepares to deface a statue, the awkward part-time security guard humbly requests she step back, and the two exchange some playful banter until she clarifies: “I don’t like art that isn’t true.”
Such is Adam’s introduction to the incendiary, avant-garde Evelyn (Abby Rossi) — and his world will never be the same.
The artistic catalyst that is Evelyn challenges the somewhat goofy young man’s perception of himself, and as their relationship deepens, her influence inspires him to make changes in his life: with his diet, his attire, and through exercise — in turn, bolstering his confidence and self-esteem. The incremental changes in Adam’s appearance and attitude are not unnoticed by his former roommate, acerbic alpha male Phillip (Tomas Nova) and his fiancee, the demure and unassuming Jenny (Taylor Windle,) who are taken aback by their formerly maladroit friend’s metamorphosis, as well as his fiery and opinionated “better half.”
But there is no change without conflict, and as Adam swaps his mild-mannered persona for a slicker, more stylish one, the ramifications are becoming evident — not only in his own life, but in the lives of those around him as well. At what point does one’s accelerated growth become malignant? The answer may startle Adam, his circle and the audience alike.
Unlike the Mainstage Theater, Stage West is a much smaller, more intimate venue — perfect for the intensity of a show such as this. The audience has ringside seats for the evolution of Adam, as well as the other characters: an opportunity which should be savored, considering the caliber of the actors’ portrayals.
The entire cast has stand-out and powerful performances, taking a witty and reflective, yet dark and ultimately challenging script to a higher level through their efforts. Special acclaim, however, should be given to the two leads — with their deft exchanges and banter, their animation, charm and undeniable chemistry keep the show light, even in some of the heaviest moments. They both own their respective roles — Bannister shines, and Rossi scintillates — and you’d swear they are the very characters they inhabit.
Ironically, it’s Bannister’s first outing on the stage. “I never did any acting [before this], this is my first performance” he confesses. “I’ve really enjoyed it… it was intense the first time, but now that I’m doing it, it’s worth it. I love it.”
Another, subtler star of the show is the unobtrusive, fluctuating geometric design of the set: morphing throughout the course of the play, its myriad parts take multiple forms to adapt for each scene, without never distracting from the performance. “Our new faculty member, Tim Mueller, did this” says director Rory Cowan. “We came up with these great ideas… it’s got conceptual thrust to it, but it’s not too strong.”
Cowan also sheds light on the choice of such a complex psychological piece: “I read the script years ago… it blew me away. Just on the page, I knew it was very solid and well-defined… [in directing,] I just tried to stay as close as possible to the structure… I just really believed in the script.”
One final performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30: if you’re fortunate enough to attend, you’ll have your chance to witness Adam’s final form — as well as his fate.
“The Shape of Things”, Brent Bannister, Abby Rossi, Tomas Nova and Taylor Windle star in this tale of love, lies, identity and the ultimate cost of change. Final show Sunday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. at the Golden West College Stage West Theater (adjacent to the Mainstage Theater), 15751 Gothard St, Huntington Beach, CA 92647. Tickets available through the box office at 714-895-8150, x1 or at www.gwctheater.com. Some mature content and language.
Categories: Arts & Leisure