Lame Dating Game

A hollow Guy retraces his romantic missteps in Some Girl(s).

Some Girl(s) Cleveland theater Bang and Clatter Theatre Co. The Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company, 140 East Market Street, Akron Through September 9, 330-606-5317
Eenie, meenie, minie, moe: One ex-girlfriend looks like all the others to this Guy.
Eenie, meenie, minie, moe: One ex-girlfriend looks like all the others to this Guy.
"Without a hurt, the heart is hollow." That lovely line from the musical The Fantasticks is meant to put a golden gloss on the emotional pain so often caused by relationships.

But for playwright Neil LaBute, that quote would probably end up as "Without a hurt, the day hasn't really begun." This master of emotional terrorism -- he also wrote the lacerating Fat Pig, about a hefty young woman who is psychologically abused -- is at it again in Some Girl(s), now at the Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company. Well acted by a cast of six, the play never engages fully and isn't able to extricate itself from its own intentionally repetitive format.

The fact that LaBute adores playing games with cultural archetypes is shown immediately, as the only man on stage is named Guy (in the original version, he was Man). The other characters are five women, former lovers of his who live in different cities. Traveling from one town (and one anonymous Holiday Inn) to another, Guy is on a redemption tour, trying to resolve past screwups before he gets married to his never-seen fiancée. He also has the additional motivation of feeding his muse, using these relationships in his writing for Esquire and other pubs.

The play progresses in almost chronological order, starting with Sam, the first damaged female. She and Guy were an item back in high school, but he didn't invite her to the senior prom. Portrayed with unrelenting disgust by Margaret Morris, Sam spits venom at him and his so-insightful writing: "It's funny how you know so much about women . . . now."

From there, we work our way through four more two-person scenes, each playing out just like the first, with small tweaks to the women's personalities. Tyler is sexually liberated and freaks out shy Guy with her advances. Reggie, the younger sister of one of Guy's buddies, recalls the time he kissed her -- back when she was only 12 and he was much older.

The uptight Lindsay has her own scheme for getting back at Guy. But, true to the playwright's active fantasy life, this revenge involves Lindsay having sex with Guy again (in order to hurt Guy's fiancée, which will, of course, hurt Guy even more). If you can follow that tortured logic, then you'll probably be OK with the final girl on Guy's relationship-rehash bender: Bobbi -- who manages to bring Guy to a trumped-up moment of truth.

While each vignette involves something of a surprise reversal, none of these clever twists ring true. We only see the women through the distorted lens of their relationships with Guy; we get no sense of them as individuals. This creates a dramatic vacuum and raises other questions, such as: How many women would consent to meet with a former lover, whom they despise, alone in a motel room? One can only hope that Guy bedded many more women in his day, and that only these five were addled enough to show up.

Another yawning hole in the script is Guy himself. Since the plot has him recording every meeting, he intentionally backs off and lets the women take the lead. That serves his material-gathering purposes well, but it works against the play's flow. We never learn enough about Guy, nor do we discover why he's so damned alluring.

It doesn't help that Daniel McElhaney, who plays Guy, lacks the lothario look; with a shaved head, thick features, and stocky frame, he's no McDreamy. Still, McElhaney acquits himself well in the role, making Guy as believable as possible, given the artificial concept he's forced to inhabit.

Among the other women, Lisa Siciliano turns in a lively portrayal of Reggie. Playful, impish, and pissed, she puts Guy in his place. Laurel Johnson and Alanna Romansky bring a nice edge to Lindsay and Bobbi. Only Rachel Roberts, as hot-to-trot Tyler, misses several beats and loses the thrust of her scene.

Director Sean Derry attempts to keep the pacing brisk, but working with this script is like flogging a water buffalo up a muddy hill. Every step feels labored, due especially to excessive repetition. Even the smooth scene changes, which essentially rotate the hotel room 90 degrees to indicate each new location, underline the banal emptiness.

From this play, it's hard to know whether LaBute hates men or women more (or what to make of his female characters carrying what could be men's names). But he should love his audiences more than to subject them to this kind of pap.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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