The Shape of Things

The Shape of Things is a play by American author and film director Neil LaBute. It premièred at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2001 with Rachel Weisz as Evelyn. 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.

The Shape of Things discusses the perennial question of what art is. Also, it is an exploration of love and people's willingness to do things for love. It is set in a small university town in the American Midwest and centres on the lives of four young students who become emotionally and romantically involved with each other.

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

When Adam, an average student majoring in English literature at a provincial university, meets Evelyn, an art student, at the local museum where he is working part-time as a guard, his life takes a decisive turn. Never having had any success with women, he feels flattered when the attractive girl shows an interest in him, and they soon start a relationship. What Adam does not notice at first is that Evelyn makes a lot of demands on him. At first, she suggests that he should start eating healthy food, change his style of clothes and have a haircut, which sounds reasonable enough. Later, however, she asks him to have plastic surgery -- even if it is just a simple nose job -- without telling anybody about it, and eventually to stop seeing his friends Phillip and Jenny and spend all the time he can spare with her. Also, Adam must never ask her about the paper she says she is writing. Truly in love for the first time in his life, Adam can be persuaded to comply with each of Evelyn's wishes, and it does not take long until he feels good about it, too.

Adam does not know that to Evelyn he is nothing but an art object, that her academic work consists in changing another human being without their knowledge and, by doing so, creating a work of art. Accordingly, none of the feelings she shows towards Adam are genuine; at no stage in their "relationship" does she fall in love with him; her videotaping their lovemaking is just part of the documentation required to finish the course; and the engagement ring he presents to her in front of a live audience one night at an exhibition gallery where she finally reveals her project is just the final proof that she has passed.

Publicly humiliated and devastated beyond hope of ever fully recovering, Adam confronts Evelyn and, for once, demands an explanation of her. But all she says is that he should be grateful to her: She claims that, objectively speaking, she has had a positive influence on his life, making him a more attractive and healthier person. Having finished her studies, Evelyn leaves the town soon afterwards.




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