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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
The women change from city to city, hotel to hotel. The man is the same in each set-up. He's flown in from New York to meet with these former girlfriends, all of whom he abandoned after fairly lengthy affairs and with whom he now feels compelled to " make things right." Oh, and did I mention that this mid-thirties man is engaged to be married to a young nurse at least ten years his junior?
Welcome to another round of Neil LaBute's relationship wars in which one partner inflicts an invisible but lasting scar of pain on another. In Fat Pig the wound is inflicted by a man too weak and tethered to the need to fit into the social mores of the nasty majority to follow his heart. In The Shape of Things the man is not the meanie but a gullible jerk and the psychological terrorist is a ruthlessly ambitious female. In the MCC production of Some Girl(s) the emotional villain is once again a male (Eric McCormack, the erstwhile Gay nice guy of Will & Grace), this one a serial relationship defector.
This play is another stylishly scripted modern drama stripping the life styles and romantic entanglements of contemporary men and women of all fairy tale trappings. The extension of its limited run even before the official opening, indicates that LaBute's brutish depiction of love and life appeals to that much sought-after mid-twenties to thirties audience demographic. (Maybe he should change his name to LaBrute?).
Some Girl(s) is an often comic but ultimately chilling portrait of a self-absorbed psychological villain who is really more driven by his ambition to be a winner (as defined by our contemporary culture) than by any genuine understanding of the actions for which he wants to make some sort of reparation. The women, all TV veterans like MCormack, are in order of appearance: in Seattle (his home town) there's the now married with children, high school sweetheart Sam (Brooke Smith); in Chicago, there's the sexy, free-spirited and most willing to forgive and forget Tyler (Judy Reyes); in Boston, there's Lindsay (Fran Drescher), his bitterly vengeful, older fling; and in Los Angeles there's his grad school sweetheart Bobbi (Maura Tierney), the one he probably could have been happy with if he were capable of a mature, committed relationship. Guy, whom the author originally tagged with the even more generic name Man, is a stand-in for every commitment-shy, self-absorbed, self-deluded contemporary Everyman.
The story of Guy's pre-nuptial return to the scenes of his [love] crimes starts out as something that could easily be an extended episode from Seinfeld, a connection underscored by the sitcom casting . But as engineered by Mr. LaBute these reunions are too dark for much laugh meter stuff. Initially everyone is a bit awkward but friendly, but the polite hellos quickly errupt into painful and angry confrontations. It's obvious that this man who's on a seemingly well-intentioned mission is no Mr. Nice Guy. And, while the women all have their say, in typical LaButian fashion, they don't really win the day. Mr. not-Nice Guy gets more than an earful but each of the ex-flames responding to his request for a meeting harbors the hope for some sort of closure but instead leaves the room slightly more wounded than before. Clearly, the smartest women on Guy's "reparations" list are the ones who were self-protective enough to refuse to meet him .
While not as satisfying as Fat Pig, LaBute's last play produced at this theater and also seamlessly directed by Jo Bonney, Some Girl(s) once again tosses out quite a few surprises even though there are plenty of comments and actions to telescope the conclusion with its final mean-spirited twist. The smooth transition from one almost but not quite identical hotel room to another is enhanced by Bonney's direction and the crackerjack design team.
The excellent cast adds to the positive net effect. Eric McCormack manages to convey the duality of a man who at one level is a dislikeable opportunist littering the country with women he has used, and at another is attractive enough to have women fall for him. (Our London critic felt David Schwimmer "too anxious and vulnerable" -- see link to her review which also includes more plot details). To his credit McCormac does not try to charm the audience but lets the smarmy side of his character dominate.
The four women do a fine job of differentiating their personalities yet letting us see the link in their situations. The highest profile distaff cast member, Fran Drescher (best known as television's The Nanny), is so good that you tend to overlook the fact that her angry Lindsay has to play one of the play's less convincing, more contrived scenes. "girls " all prove what good actors the world of television attracts. All ooze vulnerability and hurt, with even Judy Reys' buoyant Tyler becoming part of the overall picture during a flash-by tearful moment. Brooke Smith's Sam and Marua Tierney's Bobi are probably the characters the women in the audience will most easily identify with.
This is not an upbeat feel good date show. Given the several gasps and "oh no" comments from two young women sitting near me, it's real enough to strike home with more than a few audience members. As for characters like McCormack's Guy-- it's not his going from affair to affair that makes him an "emotional terrorist" (some affairs would be better off ending and you can't really blame an eighteen-year-old for not wanting to settle down). However it's the exploitativeness and the cowardly exits --often for superficial reasons (Guy broke off with one girl because she gained too much weight after an accident) -- that adds this new category of terrorist to our social lexicon.
LINKS TO OTHER LA BUTE PLAY REVIEWS
Some Girl(s) (London)
The Distance From Here (London & New York)
The Shape of Things(London and NYC)
The Shape of Things (Berkshires)
This Is How It Goes (Public Theater, NY)
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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