Some Girl(s) Review on Buffalo Theatre News

This review is by Frank DiMaria and was published on Buffalo Theatre News on February 18, 2014. →

Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go it’s pretty damn good.  -Woody Allen

Some Girl(s) by Neil Labute, recently produced by the Second Generation Theater Company at the New Phoenix Theater, reminded me of a collaboration of cut scenes from the love affair between Growing Pains and Friends, and I mean that in the most sincere way. The set is minimal and showcases the chain-ism of depressing one-window hotel rooms where secrets are meant to be kept. With the exception of a desk rotation from one side of the room to the other to indicate city change, the central spotlight of characters in relation to the bed, in relation to past sexual encounters and love, and in relation to nostalgia flows elegantly as Guy (Adriano Gatto), our pleasantly narcissistic villain, nervously chugs down his Avion water.

Anyone who has ever been in love, who has cried to their journal, pretended to live in a movie, or simply loves the film Garden State (secretly or publicly) should have been in the audience. Second Generation’s production reminds us that there is a place for the heterosexual male to be unsure of where he’s been sexually, and that seriously pondering the future, and rejecting the 1950’s cookie-cutter suburban manifesto that being married by 20 and having 2.3 kids is the way to go. And what I love and hate most about Guy reminds us, as the whole production did, that people suffer on some fundamental level; that we really are all confined at one point or another to a space which only exists behind closed doors.

This production highlighted Labute’s commentary about relationships and the interpersonal connections that we make throughout life nicely. Essentially, we are led to believe that Guy is on a journey to make amends with ex-lovers. He is newly engaged and his pseudo-bachelor party of reconciliation unfolds as we meet four very uniquely messed-up women, none of whom can comprehend what Guy wants with them and have yet to reconcile their past romances. All dialogue takes place in a Woody Allen-esque field of communication: sporadic, neurotic, incoherent, and paranoid.

First, we meet Sam, Guy’s first love and the epitome of a Prozac-ridden stay-at-home mom, who is desperately trying to justify her all-too-simple life. Many years after the fact, she still feels hate towards Guy, who broke her heart. Meghan McAdam Gomez (Sam) interpreted the character well, but with too much of a juvenile spin (I see Sam as a middle-aged soccer mom), her young face masqueraded the pain and displacement of hope the audience was supposed to feel. Gomez’s performance was strong in some places, but it appeared as if the actor could not adequately embody Sam’s true pain. The performance made the sporadic nature of Guy running around the hotel room collapse. The intention was for Sam to match Guy’s indecision and erratic behavior. A constant teetering line of broken unaccomplished dreams, over-exaggerated dictation and lulls of complacency couldn’t quite justify what I felt to be Sam’s motivation. With that said, her performance was quite energetic and I could feel, on a human level, the dedication and passion she put into the performance. She made us feel that she too was in a love/hate relationship with the character.

Next up is Tyler (Sophia Howes). Tyler represents Guy’s “experimental” phase in his dating repertoire and sexual experiences. She is everything girls in high heels and miniskirts on Chippewa hope to look forward to becoming someday, however she has a very intellectual and introspective side. She is frivolous and when not high, probably very coherent. Her encounter with Guy is filled with so much sexual tension that there is a point you wish they would just screw already ( the term “making love” is inapplicable here, judging by who Tyler presents herself to be), but they do not, which begins to build an underlying suspicion that there is an ulterior motive for Guy on this journey. Sophia Howes impressed me the most. She nailed Tyler’s essence, and her duality as sexually deviant, yet appropriately tender, combined with comic brilliance that made me smile throughout the soliloquy.

DSC_0207In next walks Lindsey (Diane Di Bernardo Blenk), the hot professor fantasy, sporting a trendy blazer masking a lacy lingerie slip. She and Guy at one point engaged in an affair during his college teaching days. The whole scene is based on paranoia as Lindsey’s husband patiently waits in their compact Subaru to either kill Guy or take home his dame. Guy trips over himself as Lindsey cons him into taking his clothes off and submitting to her upscale cougar demands. And she leaves him alone, contemplating the past, contemplating the future, and contemplating, for the first time in the show, her instead of himself in relation to her, as she slips out of the doors with a smirk of revenge, proving that love was never a factor between them, but rather the chase of youthful indiscretion and snarky foreplay for Guy to do nothing with except bank the memories.

Finally, we meet Bobbi (Kristin Bentley). Bobbi is confident in herself but not in the situation. She is one of two; that is, she has a twin, whom Guy admits he would have liked to sleep with – off to a great start. Bobbi throws a wrench into everything as she seems to be a viable choice for Guy, since he still yearns for her. Guy’s self-deprecating and self-destructive nature begin to collide. This is Gatto’s strongest moment and in this scene a pin drop could have been heard in the audience as we all waited to see if she would go back into his arms. But after a tackle John Madden would have saluted, her repositioned eyes, wandering around the hotel room, uncover the microphone where Guy had been recording the act of love through the whole performance, and it is then that our elegantly neurotic Guy admits the fault in his stars.

The play ends abruptly. There is no final epilogue – perhaps the director’s (Steve Copps’) decision – and as I left the theater I was overtaken with a feeling of loss and despair as I realized that the performance was a fragment of life as we know it, a kaleidoscope peephole into our inability to have real and honest moments without the need to broadcast or benefit, as Guy hopes to do in using the encounters to write his next book. The autopsy of emotion leaves the audience cut and drained, but also poses a stance of contemplation on our own habits.

As the lights go down on Guy, and we see him promising a modern rendition of Bogart-esque propagated speech to his soon-to-be wife, we realize that it was all an act in itself. We don’t know if we like or hate Guy. He has no redeeming qualities other than his smile, but we all like a villain, as long as he or she does not look too much like us.

SGT’s production, under the direction of Steve Copps, revitalized Labute’s Some Girl(s) in a fashion quite close to all they promise in their mission statement – “We look equally to the tenured professionals and the rising talent in the WNY area and by doing so, will create quality productions of dramatic, comedic and musical classics.” The interesting paradigm that occurred in the production was that although there were tenured professionals collaborating with rising talent throughout the four vignettes, it was the rising talent that spotlighted. I was taken aback by new faces and the energy they brought to the production, and it was clearly demonstrated that the energy was contagious as the show moved from scene to scene. Casting for this production was spot on with Tyler and Bobbi, but I am not sure how much I believed the sincerity of Sam or Lindsey. The ups and downs between ownership of roles by the cast paradoxically was energized at points and came off a bit soporific at others. Nonetheless, the entire cast was apparently passionate about what they were doing, and the New Phoenix Theater posed a great venue which was supposed to share in its intimacy with the audience.

Take a look at Second Generation Theatre’s website here for upcoming shows and more information. Comment below if you were lucky enough to catch this production and join the conversation!