Fine Acting Takes “Shape” at Montgomery College

Forewarned is forearmed, or so they say. So it was that each audience member of the current Montgomery College Actor’s Workshop production of Neil Labute’s “The Shape of Things” receives a courteous advisory on entering the Performing Arts Lab of The Woodlands campus: “This production contains ‘adult’ language and situations.” Boy, I’ll say! Yes, you will hear the dreaded “F” word, and plenty more, but don’t get me wrong. There is no nudity or graphic sex involved. But the play is sometimes sexually suggestive, and the kind of coarse language that might often pepper contemporary collegiate conversation is fully on display. If you can get past that, you will find a great deal of humor, and see some impressive acting from the very talented cast of four.

Brittany Miles portrays Evelyn, a college art student working on an unusual thesis project. Fellow student, Adam, (Chris Saltz) is her love interest. Or is he? Meanwhile Adam’s cocky friend and roommate, Phillip, (Trent Hooker) is planning an underwater wedding to the smitten Jenny, (Grace Ann McDaniel), a girl who once had an unfulfilled crush on shy late-bloomer, Adam. But Jenny’s now devoted to her fiancé, Phillip. Or is she?

The action gets under way when the somewhat counter-cultural Evelyn visits the art museum and meets Adam as he stands guard over exhibits in the sculpture gallery. Jenny not only specializes in molding sculptures, but she is ready to move on to molding Adam in more ways than one. And Adam, for his part, starts out as a very willing subject for this girl with whom he quickly falls in love. Little does he know the unexpected turns this love affair will take. Perhaps the same can be said of those of us in the audience. But that is part of the fun in Mr. Labute’s clever comedy.

I hesitate to say more about the details of the plot itself, lest I spoil the surprises for future members of the audience. But let me be more specific about some details of the production and its fine cast. Ably directed by Chase Waites, and presented in the more intimate Performing Arts Lab building directly behind the larger main theatre at the college, the show featured varied and effective lighting from designer, Cooper McClain. Macy Perrone’s simple costume designs worked well, and Sound Designer, David Ubel, subtly inserted gentle pop music from artists like James Blunt, during scene changes that were very smoothly carried off by the capable stage crew.

But let me focus a bit on the main event of this production: The excellent acting from this young quartet of performers. Actors who can skillfully memorize very lengthy passages in a script always fascinate me. Each of these thespians demonstrated that ability, and that was particularly true of Miss Miles and Mr. Saltz in the lead roles. But there was more than mere memorization at work here. A few weeks ago, in New York, I attended the Celebrity Luncheon of the American Theatre Critics Association at Sardi’s. One of the guests seated at my table was actor, Danny Burstein, currently bringing down the house nightly as the narcissistic Latin lover, Aldolpho, in Broadway’s Tony Award-winning, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Burstein told us a story about his early years in the theatre when actor, Tony Randall, was mentoring him. Randall had asked the young man what he thought was the essence of the art of acting. Burstein replied that he thought acting was “doing.” “No!” shouted Randall. “It’s about listening!” I was reminded of that exchange while watching the members of this youthful cast. They all seemed to grasp that concept as they listened intently to one another, and brought great realism to performance of the script’s many conversations and heated arguments spanning a wide range of emotions. Miss McDaniel and Mr. Hooker give us compelling lover’s quarrels from Jenny and Phillip, while the engaging charm of Mr. Miles and the coy flirtations of Miss Saltz combine to create a very real sense of the sparks of young love and romance. Why not drop by to see how things work out?

The Shape of Things will be performed today, Sunday February 25th, at 2 p.m. in the Performing Arts Lab of Montgomery College- The Woodlands. Call 936-273-7021 for ticket reservations and information, or email your ticket request to amy.f.cooper@nhmccd.edu. You might also check out the website, http://theatre.montgomery-college.com. And watch for forthcoming productions at Montgomery College with Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner” beginning April 12th, and Clark Gessner’s “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown,” beginning July 5th.

(The Courier    2.25.07)

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About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the Lambs Club, he is also editor of The Lambs' Script. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net.
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