"The Shape She Makes" at A.R.T. Credit: Marcus Stern/ A.R.T.
“The Shape She Makes” is a fascinating melding of theater and dance in a narrative that exposes human vulnerability in its purest form.
Initially, the beauty of the movement lures you into an almost euphoric expectation of 90 minutes of impeccably-executed modern dance. But the ugliness of humanity proves a jarring juxtaposition to this fluidity and the result is a dizzying mix of beauty and beast in this simple, masterfully told tale.
Quincy Calvin’s (Sydney K. Penny) life story is seen through a series of non-linear flashbacks and current events that culminate in her speech celebrating the 8 people in 75 years with perfect scores in the Brackstone Testing’s national math contest. (See the program for sample questions post-show.) Quincy, born Quincy Beth Harris, and her now-deceased, alcoholic father Bernard are among the elite group.
Quincy’s intelligence is one facet of a complicated, sad life in which her fullest potential has yet to be realized. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Quincy, as with most of us, is complicit in her own destiny. But can she change?
Susan Misner (who co-created the piece with Jonathan Bernstein) delivers an amazing performance as Quincy’s mother Louise. Using both movement and extraordinary attention to detail, she perfectly captures both the bitter young mom and her frail, miserable elderly self.
Finnerty Steeves is equally impressive as the older Quincy Calvin. The pain of emotional neglect manifests in everything she does, but when stuffing her face with her elderly mother’s birthday pie, the depth of her despair is so palpable it puts a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.
Theater of this caliber is an extraordinary treat to experience.