Art house cinema finds its way to ATP’s stage

By James Keller

That Alberta Theatre Projects’ newest production watches and feels like an art-house film is no coincidence. Two years after its stage debut, The Shape of Things was adapted for the screen, starring the original cast and premiering at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. Six years earlier, playwright-cum-filmmaker Neil LaBute, who penned the scripts for both the play and the film, received acclaim with his film debut In the Company of Men.

Even the story seems more suited to an independent film house than the theatre. The Shape of Things tells the story of Adam, a socially awkward, less-than-average-looking English major. Then he meets Evelyn, and as their relationship takes off she asks for changes, moulding him into what she desires.

According to Harry Judge, who plays Adam in the ATP rendition of The Shape of Things, LaBute may have had film in mind when he wrote the script–at least, it certainly seems that way.

"If you went to see an art-house movie, this is what you’d see: a smart, well-written, fascinating script," says Judge, although he prefers the stage version to the film. "The story works better in a theatrical sense, because the scenes tend to be quite intense and I think that can be played out quite fully in theatrical form."

According to Judge, this examination of relationships and the concessions people in them are willing to make will be a familiar tale for audiences.

"This is probably the first person who’s shown this degree of interest in him, and he’s going to do whatever he can to maintain that interest," Judge explains. "I think we’ve all thought about things we had to do to make sure that person stays interested. There’s no one that can go to this play and not find something to recognize, as they see people making choices we’ve made before or considered making."

These decisions and calculations stem from anxieties and insecurities, Judge says, which are really the roots of these sorts of dilemmas.

"I can really relate to the character of Adam in the sense that everyone’s dealing with their own insecurities, as we all are," he admits. "We all have things we are trying to get over to be fuller people."

Judge believes the play will have a mass appeal, not just because it may ring true for the audience, but also because the context and characters have an immediacy they can relate to. This makes for a different type of theatre, one more accessible to those who he thinks the script is really directed to.

"There’s no pretense about it, it’s not like Shakespeare or French Renaissance comedy," Judge explains. "This is the type of theatre we wait to have happen, because usually when I ask friends and family to see plays, I have to set it up or give some background to help them relate. But this is so modern and it is just so us."

The Shape of Things, runs through Sat., May 1 at the Martha Cohen Theatre.

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