THEATER REVIEW

5 times the charm: Casting of 'Some Girl(s)' steals the show

By Nelson Pressley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In Neil LaBute's "Some Girl(s)," a guy named Guy travels across the country to check in on several women he used to date. He's about to get married, but first he wants to make sure everything's fine with the unhappy flames he left behind.

This is called sticking your finger in a sore, and before too long you feel it would be terrific if one of the women hit Guy in the face with a shovel. That's praise, sort of: From "In the Company of Men" to "Fat Pig" and beyond, LaBute has courted that kind of visceral response to blithe self-absorption, and the new No Rules Theatre Company turns out to be pretty handy with emotional outrage and baseline skeeviness.

No Rules staged "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" downtown last summer but is billing this production (at the H Street Playhouse) as its real entrance onto the scene. "Some Girl(s)" might not be a true debut, but for a still-fledgling troupe, it is unusually well-cast.

Brian Sutow is neatly understated as Guy, grinning and listening with a half-distracted air as the baffled women -- each in a different city -- try to figure out what this ex-boyfriend wants. Sometimes they come on to him, and Sutow's Guy is charmingly chaste. Sometimes they call him on his broken promises, and Sutow treads softly, claiming innocence.

The women are presented with increasing degrees of difficulty, beginning with Clementine Thomas as a plaintive housewife touchingly hoping for a quickie fling with her former high school beau. As Tyler, a wild child in ripped jeans and high-heeled boots, Morgan Reis flings her body around provocatively and smiles quizzically at this peculiar male specimen, whose learned vocabulary sometimes gets her goat.

It's at this point that you start wondering about Guy's profession, since he has just published a story in the New Yorker that the ladies recognize in some of the particulars. If he has enough on the ball to make that literary scene, how can he be so tone-deaf in these encounters?

LaBute throws you off that scent with the appearance of Lindsay, a professor Guy slept with in college. That affair reached a scandalous boiling point, and Lindsay plays by LaButean rules -- no rules, in other words -- with Lisa Hodsoll giving an impressively intimidating yet wounded performance.

Emily Simoness rounds out the gallery with a sweet/fierce portrayal of a woman who knows Guy well enough to give him a real battle, but after what happens with Lindsay, your radar will probably be on full alert, wondering why he's still at this game. Sloppy this playwright is not, and the funniest passages of the play come as LaBute transparently turns the focus on his own much-debated tactics as a writer.

The only real error by director Joshua Morgan (co-artistic director of No Rules along with Sutow) is duration: Two hours-plus with intermission doesn't feel like this tight play's ideal running time. But the production is clean and unmannered, keenly attuned to emotional shifts and verbal nuance, which is what you want with LaBute. Morgan gets full credit for simply hitching his wagon to smart, appealing actors and letting them run.

Pressley is a freelance writer.

Some Girl(s)

by Neil LaBute. Directed by Joshua Morgan. Set design, Sean Urbantke; costumes, Paul McCrae; lights, Eric Grims. About 2 hours 15 minutes. Through March 21 at the H Street Playhouse, 1365 H St. NE. Call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.norulestheatre.org.


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