Review: Of Shapes Transformed By Love (Aim for the Tangent/NewBorn Theatre)

Of Shapes Transformed By Love is an evening adventure through a Toronto garden to explore the human heart

Of Shapes Transformed By Love, inspired by the Metamorphoses, explores the human heart through a skewed lens. In this universe, the line between the natural and human worlds disappears: lovers grow fur and devour one another; the sea, the sky, the hills and the birds become active players in human stories (or is it the other way ’round?); and when deep emotions–longing, loss, forgiveness, regret–become so all-consuming as to transcend our humanity, so, too, do we.

And from that description, you probably already know whether or not you’ll like this show: some will find it touching and deep, others will find it cloying and too thinkity-think for its own good.

Happily, I’m a bit of a sap.

Kyle Capstick’s script sets up several key moments for the cast, and these essentially work. My highlights included Alexi Pedneault’s makeup scene; Amy Marie Wallace, who executes a lovely–and dangerous–transformation despite not even being on stage at the time; and Hilary Scott, who slips plausibly from part to part, yet seems firmly rooted in each role she plays.

Yet when it comes to the script, the main issue I’d like to tease out is that, while there are several moments of intense drama and outstanding performance here (at least a dozen!), a lot of the show feels like padding: things we do not need to actually see acted out in order to believe they have taken place–which implies that, unless they can be shown in an interesting or spectacular or impressive or telling way, they should be cut. The current format weighs down the show, requires that the actors work twice as hard in order to punctuate the moments of true importance, and makes the exercise feel longer than it is.

All of this being said, this is a lovely place to spend a few hours. The Majlis Art Garden, always a delightful place to spend a summer’s evening, is dressed in dozens of fairy lights stuffed into mason jars, to tremendous effect. (Although I pity the poor soul who gets assigned to light the damned things and keep all the lids straight!) The sudden appearance of a major prop halfway through the show is a particular testament to designer Joe Pagnan’s vision: easily one of the most effective tricks I’ve seen on a show at this level in several years.

Costume designer Lindsay Junkin also delivers a considerable gift to this production, emphasizing modularity, simplicity and earth tones in a style which both flatters the actors and entirely suits Kyle Capstick’s skewed world.

So, what do we have. I like the setting; I like the universe; I like the promise; I loved (loved!) the cast; the design is a treat; the concept is pleasing; and, if nothing else, this is an opportunity to see several actors who are rapidly establishing themselves on the Toronto scene. Expect discomforts, but judge for yourself whether or not these eclipse everything this show has to offer.

Do, however, bring a coat, a blanket, or a hot chocolate; it gets chilly rather quickly, and you’ll be glad you did.

Details

  • Of Shapes Transformed By Love plays through May 18th at the Majlis Art Garden. (163 Walnut Ave., near Queen and Spadina.)
  • Performances run nightly, Wednesday to Sunday, starting at 9 PM.
  • Tickets are $20, $15 for students.
  • Tickets may be purchased online or in-person at the venue immediately before the performance. (In-person tickets are cash-only.)
  • Be advised that this show includes frank depictions of sexuality, sexual expression, and sexual violence.

Photograph of the cast by Jonathan Harvey.

An earlier version of this review mis-identified a cast member; this error has been corrected.

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