Theater archives

The Shape of Metal


Nell Jeffrey (Roberta Maxwell) might be a great sculptor, but she’s been a bad mom, and as death approaches, she’s having regrets about her life: in particular, her treatment of eldest daughter Grace (Molly Ward) years ago. The arrival of Nell’s other daughter, Judith (Julia Gibson), only compounds the older woman’s rueful state. Judith has come to ask about her paternity (which her supposed father questioned on his deathbed). Judith also wants to know why Grace left home abruptly without a word to sister or mother. It’s made-for-TV movies stuff, and though playwright Thomas Kilroy attempts to elevate The Shape of Metal by using heavy-handed metaphor and references to famed artists Nell has known, the piece is never more than a tedious theatrical potboiler. Maxwell’s generally solid performance as the ill, mentally feeble Nell bolsters director Brian Murray’s production somewhat, as does Lex Liang’s terrific converted-barn art-studio set. But these assets are not enough to offset Kilroy’s tiresome tale and hopelessly uneven performances from Ward and Gibson, as the two victims of a mother’s twisted, egotistical love.