“I find it very real. You can see yourself saying the lines, like I can find myself saying some of this stuff in real life,” says Christie Bartram, who plays the role of Jenny. “It really involves you as an actor.”
“It’s a very personal play. You can’t do this on a large scale; it works so much better in a smaller setting,” says Adam Whitlam. Playing the role of Phillip, Whitlam is one of the production’s four cast members. “It becomes really intense; you find yourself drawn more into the role, and closer to the cast.”
Khonrad Mykulak agrees with his cast partner, “You get to know everyone; everything just seems to work out better. Everyone has some personal investment in the play.” Mykulak takes on the role of Adam, a man whose life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere when the play begins. “This is a play that just can’t take off unless everyone is involved.”
So why would Theatre Western choose such an intense, intimate production?
“It was a lot different than the usual plays we put on. We’ve mainly done musical productions in the past,” says producer and Theatre Western commissioner Kevin Wong. “It’s very accessible to people, it centres around university life and deals with issues that we’re all used to but on a more exaggerated level.”
With such a small cast Wong realizes, “It really allows for the actors to grow. With just four people in the play, we get to work with each one and help their talents blossom.”
To accomplish this goal, Wong signed on director Dany Savard, who has worked in theatre for the past decade. “It was interesting material,” Savard says. “I’d heard of Neil LaBute before, and of The Shape of Things. After I read the play, I loved it. It doesn’t get put on often, because the material can be seen as rather controversial, and some might say the dialogue is a bit racy.”
The small cast and tight script were major draws for Savard. “I love actors. I’m an actor myself and I relished the opportunity to help other actors discover and grow in their abilities. With such a small cast, there’s less focus on the technical aspects, and more on the actual play itself.”
“It’s one of those plays that is potentially very difficult to pull off,” says Liza Veldhuis, The Shape of Things’ fourth cast member. Veldhuis plays Evelyn, a grad student working on an art thesis, who gets the play rolling when she begins her relationship with Adam. “If you don’t have a director with the right intuition and understandings, you end up with a play that isn’t very real or true to life. We’re fortunate that Dany has that intuition.”
The most shocking and disturbing aspect of The Shape of Things is the material, which takes the aspect of manipulation in relationships to the next level.
“It really reflects what goes on in a lot of relationships, especially romantic ones,” Bartram agrees, “People change, people are altered by their partner whether they know it or not.”
“It’s something you’ll want to watch again, just because the ending is so intense,” Whitlam states. “Watching it the second time you’ll find things you didn’t see at first glance and you’ll come to understand what’s going on with these characters.”
The Shape of Things looks to be an intense view of relationships, and how we may change or affect those we care about, or even those we just want to test and manipulate.
“It’s frightening what goes on in this show,” says Veldhuis. “There are a lot of scary truths in here that people might not want to come to terms with in their own life.” It’s up to viewers to find any truth in the matter, and whether or not they want to see The Shape of Things.
The Shape of Things opens tonight and runs until Saturday November 26 at the Grand Theatre. Tickets are $10.