Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s) gives writer Ana La O' a good laugh and a bad sense of déjà vu.
Familiar faces of LA's Asian American theatre community work together to present The Emily Project, the end result of a series of improv workshops done Oymun style.
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Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s) gives writer Ana La O' a good laugh and a bad sense of deja vu.
A few weeks ago, my ex unexpectedly invited me to dinner months after we'd broken up or spoken to each other. If he could just have one more chance, he promised to make it up to me. But some rehashing of past relation-shit and a few measly excuses for bad behavior later, all I got was a go at pushing his stalled car down the dimly-lit street and a question, echoing through my head: "Why am I here again?"
Maybe it is just pointless and masochistic to revisit the scars of a failed relationship. Or maybe there is a point when revisiting the pain takes such a ridiculous turn, that it becomes fascinating -- entertaining even.
This idea lies at the heart of Neil LaBute's latest drama Some Girl(s): A Romance. Some Girl(s) follows Guy (Mark Feuerstein), a recently engaged thirty-something writer, as he travels to four American cities to visit four different ex-girlfriends, in hopes of "right[ing] some wrongs" before he ties the knot. Some of Guy's girlfriends he hasn't seen in nearly a decade. Some of them have husbands and babies. All of them have since tried to move on from Guy's brutal romantic hit-and-runs, which make his "moral" proposal to reopen and heal old wounds seem mean and absurd.
But it is this absurd setup that allows LaBute to unleash sharply witty dialogue and construct deliciously comic moments. In fact, to turn up the level of discomfort, LaBute places the ex-lovers within the confines of sterile, non-descript hotel rooms, like little experimental lab rats waiting to be observed. What we discover is a despicably phony specimen of a man in Guy, who always pulls the same affected shtick to impress his old girlfriends. Before opening his hotel room door, he throws on a neatly-pressed jacket and switches on La Dolce Vita on his laptop. Now throw in a feisty ex-girlfriend to take a jab at this fabricated sophistication, and it's difficult not to shake your head and laugh.
Tyler (played by the vivacious Justina Machado), a sexually-experimental artist with a street-smart attitude, is the perfect foil to Guy's pretentiousness. When the apparently emotionless writer feels a "burst of hurt" from past relationships, he claims he must "poke" and "prod" it, to which Tyler cleverly corrects him: "sell it." (Guy's latest professional success is a story published in the New Yorker about his old girlfriends.)
At this point, triumphant snickers sound from some women in the audience, who are still measuring up LaBute's leading man. Is he really just some awfully pathetic cad who tries hard, but can't help saying or doing the wrong thing? It is evident during his first girlfriend encounter that he won't achieve his proclaimed righteous goals. With Guy's sprightly demeanor and preppy outfits, you could mistake him at first glance for the kind of hopelessly immature, overgrown boy we love to loath in comedies, perhaps romantic ones.
But where primetime or Hollywood might strive to satisfy our sweet tooth for saccharine endings, by offering the leading man a chance to redeem himself by maturing or finding love at long last, LaBute digs deeper into the harsher realities of modern love with his intricately-nuanced characters. Each new girlfriend we meet chips further away at Guy's "normal nice guy" exterior to reveal more and more perverse flaws and faults, which leave indelible scars on even the strongest and most audacious women.
Lindsay (Rosalind Chao), a married professor who had an affair with Guy, seamlessly evolves from a bossy prima donna to a ruthless dominatrix to a defeated older woman, insecure about her age and unable to complete her satisfying revenge.
The more playfully vengeful Bobbi (Jaime Ray Newman), the one woman Guy claims to have truly loved, goes as far as declaring that Guy is "more than an ex-boyfriend" for his brutal gestures. He is "a killer." By the striking twist at the end of the play, her words don't seem too far from the truth.
From the cozy seats in the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater -- the kind of space where you can literally see the sweat and tears dripping off the actors' faces -- the audience is almost transported into these cringe-worthy scenes. While this unusual audience engagement may sound a bit torturous, there's something sickly fascinating about being close enough to dissect the characters' multifaceted personalities and oscillating emotions, which to me, struck an uncanny chord with circumstances and people I know well. Only this time, the heartbreaker seemed so unabashedly and stupidly cruel, I couldn't help but laugh.
Date Posted: 2/22/2008