By Manning Harris
Playwright Neil LaBute is under no illusions about the power of a pretty face, male or female. He once commented to a New York Times reporter, “Pretty guys have this glow. No matter how bad they are, people keep going back to them. Being pretty can bring out the worst in people. I always keep an eye on the pretty guy who can hurt me.”
He demonstrates what he means in his 2005 play “Some Girl(s),” now being given a cracking good production by Pinch ‘N’ Ouch Theatre through October 21, directed by Susan Reid and featuring Producing Artistic Director Grant McGowen as “Guy,” cad-in-chief. Okay, he’s more complicated than that. Or maybe not; you decide.
Guy, a 30-ish attractive young man, has decided that it’s time to get married; and that it’s probably a good idea to interview some ex-girlfriends to “make sure he hasn’t missed out on something,” as Bobbi (Jackie Costello), one of the four women he visits, puts it. It doesn’t occur to Guy that this whole enterprise is selfish, self-serving, potentially hurtful, and more than a little sadistic and masochistic to all parties concerned. By the way, the play is billed as a “romantic comedy”!
Guy has enjoyed some success as a writer of fiction, you see, so he must have some degree of perspicacity about these things, right? So a series of four trysts in anonymous hotel rooms is arranged.
But what a cast Ms. Reid has assembled. “Some girls won’t dance to the beat of the track.” (Lady Gaga’s lyric, “Dance in the Dark.”) And these women, unlike Guy, are tough, vulnerable, wounded, sardonic—and still looking to connect. They bring LaBute’s snappy, subtle dialogue to vivid life.
There’s Sam (Kelly Criss), the high school sweetheart who was dumped by Guy just before their prom. Even though she now has her own children, she has not forgotten one detail of their romance (a line from George Cukor’s last film (“Rich and Famous”) comes to mind: “They ought to warn you before they let you fall in love for the first time. You can pick the god-awfullest one. And you don’t recover; not ever. Not from the first.”) Sam still hurts. Ms. Criss is moving and powerful as she shows us that time is an illusion.
Tyler (Julissa Sabino) is attractive, sexually aggressive and unafraid to seduce Guy (who mildly protests he has a fiancé). Although Tyler fails to seduce, she has enough clarity of vision to sense, correctly, that Guy has a hidden agenda in his fact-finding mission; and while she’s up for a “quickie,” is happy to walk out with no regrets. Ms. Sabino nails Tyler’s breezy charm with ease.
Lala Cochran’s Lindsay is the Mrs. Robinson of the piece, the “older woman” Guy had a fling with in college (she’s a college professor); and the only woman to cut through Guy’s whiny and often stated good intentions with a “Why are we here?” This sequence is a trip, and I won’t spoil it for you; I’ll just say that that Ms. Cochran is perfect for Lindsay’s blasé sophistication. She has an agenda of her own.
Bobbi, played brilliantly by Jackie Costello, is more than equal to Guy’s machinations; when she tells Guy, “I do not need you,” it’s a breath of fresh air. She likens Guy to an assassin, an “emotional terrorist,” and this sequence flies, with a surprise ending I cannot reveal.
Mr. McGowen is onstage the entire evening, and he’s smooth and polished enough to make an essentially unlikable, almost sociopathic character fascinating; he’ll offer you a glass of Evian water while telling you sweetly what a loser you really are. And can you say “misogynistic”? Mr. La Bute can. Ms. Reid uses the claustrophobic hotel rooms as best she can; and she hits the right emotional notes. “Some Girl(s)” ultimately offers a very credible rationale for staying single.
For more information, visit pnotheatre.org.