Theater The Shape of Things

Ganas Theatre Productions

Ruschman Art Gallery

Directed by Shawn Whistler

Through Oct. 31 Shafali Klecka as Evelyn and Bryan Campbell as Adam in Ganas Theatre’s ‘The Shape of Things’ Independent theater tops the list again for this week’s openings. Last week, Two Rooms wowed, while this week, Ganas opened the dynamic The Shape of Things.

Adam meets Evelyn, a guerilla artist who is beginning her master’s thesis in art. Over the course of their relationship Adam begins to change — both physically and mentally. Under Evelyn’s encouragement he begins to work out, undergoes cosmetic surgery and seems to be coming out of his shell. But there is more to the story than that.

Neil Labute’s fascinating play is a mine of philosophical questions. What can be subjective? Where is the line drawn between “art” and “not art”? What moral issues arise when you start asking these questions? And these are just the beginning. If you are looking for a theater experience that teases the mind while entertaining, this show provides it.

Aptly set in Ruschman Art Gallery, the space is small and filled with art, so the play’s theme is always a glance away. The actors stay on the spot the whole time. An area is set aside for the action, but there is no “stage,” and the actors move their own props, dress each other, etc.

Bryan Campbell as Adam, Shafali Klecka as Evelyn and Tom Hutcheson and Alissa Cook as friends Phillip and Jenny (and director Shawn Whistler steps to the stage occasionally) all do outstanding, energetic work. From posing as famous works of art to emotional outbursts, each is completely convincing. Highly recommended.

The Shape of Things continues through Oct. 31 at Ruschman, 948 N. Alabama St. For tickets: 797-5755.


Phoenix Theatre

Directed by Bryan Fonseca and Shari Lynn Himes

Through Nov. 21

Crowns, the show now on stage at the Phoenix Theatre, is a joyful look into the black community and the hats that express so much about the women who wear them.

The premise is that Yolanda (Tiffany L. Shoemaker) is sent to her grandmother (Rhoda C. Ludy) in the South after Yolanda’s brother is shot. Yolanda, having been brought up in Brooklyn, comes to terms with her grandmother’s (and mother’s) culture, and comes to embrace her own African heritage. But the show is primarily a series of stories Mother Shaw and her church friends tell, all stemming from the theme of hats — or “crowns.”

The show opens with an interesting feature: a calling out to a series of goddesses. This is never referred back to, but opens up dialogue about what it means: Is it making reference to the origins of the power of the feminine, even though the story is mainly set in the modern church, which is so patriarchal?

With sass and style, Ludy and her friends — Sherri Brown-Webster, Kendra N. Mitchell, Kai Mwaafrika-Hesse and Brenda Williams — show what their hats represent to them: memories, respect, style, struggles, joys and more. Interspersed are gospel numbers (this is set around a church after all). The uplifting music is a complement to the stories told, and Ludy shines with a voice that could call in the faithful instantly. The lone male in the cast, Langstan Martin Smith, is a riot of character, playing multiple roles, and has a pretty awesome voice as well. But the whole cast does satisfying work, and the show is a heart-warming celebration of the spirit of women and heritage — black, here, but a boon for all of us.

Co-directors Bryan Fonseca and Shari Lynn Himes infuse action into the storytelling, which keeps the eye focused on the performers, and costume designer Lindsey Lyddan provides luscious and plentiful hats.

Crowns continues through Nov. 21 at the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave. Call 635-PLAY.


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