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'Shape of Things' opens Friday at Corn Stock Winter Playhouse

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shape of things

 

How much would any of us be willing to change ourselves to please another person, particularly one with whom we’re in love? That question is probably as old as mankind itself but not easy to answer until one is in that position.

It’s also the question playwright Neil LaBute explored in his 2001 drama “The Shape of Things,” which opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Corn Stock Theatre’s Winter Playhouse in Upper Bradley Park.

The route LaBute takes to get to the answer from his four characters is typical of his other offerings in that it disturbs, angers and even shocks the audience, said Chris Gray, who directs the Corn Stock show that continues Saturday night and again next Thursday through Saturday evenings and the matinee on Sunday, Nov. 23.

The way LaBute studies the human condition is one of the chief reasons Gray, who is making his Corn Stock Theatre directorial debut, agreed to take it on when the original director was forced to pull out because of personal reasons. Because it was LaBute and because it was at Corn Stock’s Winter Playhouse, “it really wasn’t a very tough decision,” Gray said.

That despite the fact rehearsals began only two days after he closed the musical “Avenue Q” at Illinois Central College, where he is dean of arts and communication. Not to mention he is trying to complete his doctorate.

“I believe in the work they do over here at this theatre. The types of shows they do (at the Winter Playhouse) are my type of shows, good drama and comedy pieces that look at the human condition. Add to that it was Neil LaBute, with whom I am very familiar and I was excited to take it on,” he said.

“This is a strong character study piece, which LaBute is known for. He explores that dark side that exists in all of us and he highlights it in an enthralling way. We all can see ourselves in some of his characters and perhaps that’s why we really dislike what the characters do, but we seem to be able to forgive the rotten stuff,” Gray said.

“The Shape of Things” is about four students at a small, fictitious Midwestern College and focuses on Adam, an average guy who falls so hard for Evelyn he agrees to change his looks and even his personal traits in order to keep her interested.

Another couple is in the mix, as well, serving as temptations and possible foils as Adam and Evelyn grow closer together.  

There is “a big reveal” at the end of the play, but Gray refused to divulge it for this story.

In “The Shape of Things,” Gray said he found the characters to be similar to people he knew while going to college in the 1990s. “I knew people like that. Probably all of us did. We didn’t always like them, though,” he said.

Gray said his cast has been a pleasure. “They are awesome. I wasn’t sure what I was going to have because the original director had already picked the cast before I came on board. Kudos to him because they are great. He did a good job. These actors came in with experience and knew the basics of acting. They had already started studying their characters,” he said.

Adam is portrayed by Andrew Rhodenbaugh, a Corn Stock veteran who also is a founding members of the theatre group called The Great Work Begins.

Evelyn is portrayed by Rebekah Dentino, who wowed audiences as the daughter in “Next to Normal” at the Winter Playhouse two years ago.

Alex Buchko, who was assistant choreographer for “Spamalot” at Corn Stock’s tent this summer and who has performed in many summer shows there, portrays Jenny in her Winter Playhouse debut.

Cody Cornwell makes his Corn Stock debut as Phil. He is a recent graduate of the theatre program at ICC, where he portrayed Gordon Gottlieb in “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”

Gray hopes to direct more shows at Corn Stock Winter Playhouse in the future. “This is the type of theatre I think is important. I consider myself a story teller. I love telling stories and theatre is the way I do it. That’s how I approach directing and acting. I love to engage the audience in the story,” he said.

“The Shape of Things” has adult themes and language.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students. They can be reserved by calling 676-2196 or online at www.cornstocktheatre.com.

This weekend Corn Stock is offering two adult tickets for the price of one.

 

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).