The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute, directed by Jim Guedo, with Amy Redford, Allan Hawco, Amy Price-Francis and Jacob Barker. Presented by CanStage at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Limited run, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $20-$49. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN
Neil Labute's the shape of thingsdeserves better than the current CanStage production.The play shows what happens when a university art student (Amy Redford) begins changing the outward shape of a socially awkward geek (Allan Hawco). It's like a reverse-gender Pygmalion or a John Hughes film set in a morally questionable universe.
Jim Guedo's ham-fisted direction over-stresses the work's themes in a between-scenes motif styled after magazine covers that isn't as clever as he thinks it is. He also makes us aware of the work's manipulative quality -- ironically, his cleverest scene shows two child's swings that make the characters appear to be marionettes.
His work with the actors is crude. In a supporting part, Amy Price-Francis, who along with any number of fine local actors could have played the lead (strident Redford lacks depth and charisma and isn't believable in the early scenes), is reduced to a simpering idiot. Her opposite number, Jacob Barker, gets to throw tantrums.
Only Hawco is allowed a full range of emotions and expressions, and he makes the journey from puppy-dog devotee to jaded lover with skill.