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The Shape of Things: A Play Paperback – July 8 2002
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How far would you go for love? For art? What would you be willing to change? Which price might you pay?
Such are the painful questions explored by Neil Labute in The Shape of Things. A young student drifts into an ever-changing relationship with an art major while his best friends' engagement crumbles, so unleashing a drama that peels back the skin of two modern-day relationships, exposing the raw meat and gristle that lie beneath.
The world première of The Shape of Things was presented at the Almeida, London, in May 2001.
LaBute's great gift is to live in and to chronicle that murky area of not knowing, which mankind spends much of its waking life denying. (John Lahr, The New Yorker)
A piece whose intricate layers of treachery are worthy of David Mamet. (Paul Taylor, The Independent)
About the Author
LaBute's plays include: bash: latter-day plays, The Shape of Things, The Mercy Seat, The Distance From Here, Autobahn, Fat Pig (Olivier Award nominated for Best Comedy), Some Girl ( s ), This Is How It Goes, Wrecks, Filthy Talk for Troubled Times, In a Dark Dark House, Reasons to Be Pretty (Tony Award nominated for Best Play) and The Break of Noon. In the spring of 2011 his play In a Forest, Dark and Deep premiered in London's West End. LaBute is also the author of Seconds of Pleasure, a collection of short fiction which was published by Grove Atlantic.
His films include In the Company of Men (New York Critics' Circle Award for Best First Feature and the Filmmaker Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival), Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, Possession, The Shape of Things, a film adaptation of his play of the same title, The Wicker Man, Lakeview Terrace and Death at a Funeral.
- ASIN : 0571212468
- Publisher : Faber & Faber Plays; Main edition (July 8 2002)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 144 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780571212460
- ISBN-13 : 978-0571212460
- Item weight : 132 g
- Dimensions : 12.45 x 1.65 x 19.81 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #290,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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To any mainstream critic who goes to plays and demands "positive" or "compassionate" endorsements of the received ideas we hold or our self-absorbed lives as we generally live them now, Labute has little to offer. Refreshingly free of such frothy, mindless cheer, the playwright instead skewers unquestioned contemporary notions of art's necessary beneficence and those of the glories of untrammeled individualism. Human nature and art, he reveals as satiric dramatist, are both larger and more problematic than such currently genteel, fashionable conceptions of them. Far from being "non-original" in his ideas, Labute more than any other current playwright provokingly calls into question the actual - not the putative - received ideas about art and life which are thought "cutting edge" in our time. If anyone writing drama today could produce a fully realized masterwork on the way we live now, I suspect it would be Neil Labute.
Labute's talent however seems to lie in his ideas on cruelty and bizarre relationship dynamics and sadistic, dark plot twists which are a feature of his first two films, certainly this play, and his latest work "Distance from Here." In this particular work Labute infuses ideas about the nature and role of art in the world into his relationships. While three of the main characters are somewhat typical midwestern middle class liberal arts students, their world is shaken by an art student that enters into their lives and begins to use them as her palette. She transforms life itself into a work of art through her manipulations. The twisted dynamics, anguish and frustration in the play is painful to experience and particularly visceral.
Meanwhile, the form ties into the themes. As a piece of live theater the audience nearly becomes complicit in the crime by patronizing a work of art that features lives torn apart and altered on stage. The climax in a lecture theater with its twist was probably staged in such a way that the audience became participants and active in the main character's anguish and undoing.
While this piece does have its flaws, it is a gripping and incredible play that functions not only well as a drama, but as a sophisticated discussion of the theater. This play is conscious about why theater is a fascinating art form and uses that to its advantage.
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 8, 2017