nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
June 6, 2006
Growing up is hard to do, but it's easier for some than for others. Guy, the thirtysomething protagonist of Some Girl(s), is baby-stepping his way towards maturity—and barely, at that. He's clueless and insensitive, able to unknowingly hurt someone's feelings in the blink of an eye. The play's author, Neil LaBute, on the other hand, is making progress. Some Girl(s) shows his ruthless pragmatism turned inward and reflective for the purpose of self-examination—the result of which has compelled him, like his protagonist, to make amends for his past sins. LaBute's detractors will no doubt be pleased to see him so penitent. His supporters, on the other hand, know he has nothing to apologize for.
Guy is a successful writer who's engaged to be married. As the wedding day approaches, he is guilt-stricken as he looks back on the shoddy way he's treated his ex-girlfriends. In an act of conscience, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey to seek out his former partners and right some major wrongs.
Or so it seems. Like clockwork, LaBute introduces a surprise plot twist late in the game that, once it's revealed, seems inevitable. But, until then, Some Girl(s) is a bit of a departure for the author. Guy is a kinder, gentler variation on the alpha males that usually dominate LaBute's work: mostly reformed from a hedonistic (and misanthropic) lifestyle, but still not mature enough to be called a man. He's trying, though, and for Guy that counts for something. His ex-girlfriends, however, see things a little differently.
There's Guy's high school sweetheart, Sam, a suburban housewife still wounded from their breakup; Tyler, the sexual libertine from grad school who never forgot him despite bedding scores of men; Lindsay, the older married woman he had a torrid affair with then literally ran out on; and Bobbi, his undergrad girlfriend who may be "the one" he mistakenly let get away. (Or maybe she's not "the one." That surprise plot twist I mentioned earlier occurs during Guy's visit with Bobbi, and lays waste to any decent motives he may have. I won't spoil it here, though.)
In the meantime, what sets Some Girl(s) apart from LaBute's previous work is his acknowledgement that women are more than just sport for men. All of Guy's former conquests have been scarred by him, and his reappearance disrupts their emotional equilibriums. His actions have all had consequences, but he refuses to be accountable for them. The women want to make sure he knows there are some wrongs that cannot be undone just because he wants "to make amends." Some Girl(s) is unique for LaBute in that, for once, he lets the women vent their spleens. Sam is still crushed over long-abandoned adolescent dreams of marrying Guy. Bobbi cynically claims to know the real reason why he's on his journey (she's right, too). Lindsay even comes armed with a cruel plan to get revenge on him. As Guy learns, he has touched all of these women in an irreparably bad way.
It could be argued that Some Girl(s) serves as one big mea culpa for LaBute. The play's slant is towards giving the women their say and making Guy suck it up. Is this the author's not-so-tacit admission of guilt over the alleged misogyny of his previous work? Could it be, perhaps, an even bigger public admission of self-hatred from a man who is trying to change his ways? An olive branch held out in good faith to female theatergoers? Or just another play in which he simply grows as a dramatist? Personally, I think Some Girl(s) is all of the above, but it's open to interpretation. As a fan of his work, I don't think LaBute needs to be contrite for the public's sake. If, on the other hand, he's doing it for personal reasons, that's a different story. Of course, I could be reading too much into it. Ultimately, it's up to each theatergoer to decide for themselves.
Director Jo Bonney once again does an exemplary job, guiding Some Girl(s) with invisible mastery. She gets convincing and powerful performances out of her cast, all of whom do a superb job demolishing their familiar film and TV personas. As Guy, Eric McCormack shows us a man whose former Casanova ways have left a black, empty hole in his soul. Maura Tierney, endowing Bobbi with a rich inner life, speaks volumes with a minimum of words. Judy Reyes is sexy and playful (and a little dangerous) as Tyler, while Brooke Smith is achingly unfulfilled as Sam. The real find here is Fran Drescher, showing a heretofore unknown (but welcome) talent for drama. Her slow-burn intensity as Lindsay is the surprising highlight of the show.
With Some Girl(s) LaBute has turned out another gripping play that makes us take a hard look at ourselves, and those around us. What more can one ask of good theatre? Pay these girls a visit, and find out what sins you may have to atone for.