Presented by the College of Charleston
Jan. 23-26, 8 p.m.
Jan. 27, 3 p.m.
172 Calhoun St.
Men are pigs.
So Neil LaBute would have us believe. Having provided much anecdotal evidence, his style is often compared to the acerbic wit of Harold Pinter and David Mamet. LaBute continues to establish himself among their ranks with his 2005 creation, Some Girl(s), now in production at the College of Charleston’s Chapel Theatre.
His characters are not cardboard cutouts, and this is what makes them so fascinating. His characters, both the cleverly heinous and the simply stupid, walk a fine line between what is acceptable and what is unforgivable.
They just happen to step over the line a little too often. Liev Schreiber in LaBute’s The Mercy Seat played a man who uses the tragedy of Sept. 11 to hide an affair. He said of the role, “Doing this part, I feel, well, shadier. Not that I’m doing anything shady. It’s like trying to shake off an itch that’s not really there.”
This is typical of LaBute’s treatment of the way men and women deal with each other, and it is what makes his plays so emotionally powerful. Some Girl(s) is the story of Guy (yes, it’s a big blunt hammer of a name), a commitment-phobe, who decides on the eve of his marriage to revisit the women in his life whom he’s wronged.
So begins his journey. In one hotel room after another we learn just how dumb guys, er Guy, can really be. His actions belie his motives. After having written a well-received short story based on prior relationships, is this just a chance to gather material? Is he just making sure the girl he has chosen, a 23-year-old blonde nursing student, is the best he can do?
These unanswered questions make LaBute’s work compelling. Christian Self, in the lead role, gives a credible performance. But his attitude toward his character suggests he may misunderstand Guy. Self seems to feel Guy hasn’t done anything that bad: “The way I found to like this guy is that he never cheated on any of the girls,” Self said during the evening’s talkback session. Judging from the voluminous groaning among the audience’s female population, Self is alone in thinking that. Others evidently consider it cheating when a man seeks the company of other women.
Self is possibly miscast. Physically and emotionally, he doesn’t come across as the sort of man woman after woman would be falling for, and still love years later, especially after the way he has treated them.
There are five women visited across the country. Starting in Seattle, Guy visits his high-school fling Sam, played by the flighty Sierra Garland. Then it’s on to Chicago for the sexually adventurous Tyler, played with gusto by Victoria Frank. A quick hop to Boston finds him revisiting an affair with a married woman, Lindsay. As presented by Kracell Reown, this is a powerful, accomplished woman whose one regret lies in the way she allowed herself to betray her husband for the likes of Guy.
The final visit is to Bobbi, the love of his life. Lauren Riddle delivers the best performance of the evening, strong and compelling. She is able to deliver a sense of real chemistry that might have once existed between her and Guy, and this makes her performance much more powerful.
Director Joy Vandervort-Cobb chose to add an extra scene. Her reasoning is sound given that it’s an extra role for a woman in a theater department populated mostly by women. The scene does serve to vilify Guy a little more than the rest of the play. However, these reasons do not stop the scene from feeling like an afterthought.
With a fantastic mutable hotel room set from scenic designer Alan Lyndrup (it’s likely everyone has stayed in similar looking rooms) this is another solid performance from the dedicated theater department at the College of Charleston. The power of LaBute’s dialogue, a solid performance from the entire cast, and entertaining set changes sets a high mark for local theater companies to match.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some old girlfriends to apologize to.