In “Some Girl(s),” Neil LaBute continues his careerlong evisceration of that perennial, and by now a little tired, target: the white heterosexual male. In this one, an insufferable schmuck (Mark Feuerstein) named Guy — as in “every guy,” get it? — criss-crosses the U.S. to interact with a quartet of ex-girlfriends in virtually identical orgies of recrimination and regret. Knowing little more about him after the fourth encounter than the first, we sympathize even less, and the Geffen production simply isn’t scintillating enough to overcome the character’s unpleasantness or script’s monotony.
In his hometown of Seattle, high school g.f. Sam (Paula Cale Lisbe) harbors unresolved prom-night issues, while Chicago grad school squeeze (Justina Machado) has trouble accepting her second-fiddle role now as then. Over to Boston for a reunion with the gender studies prof (Rosalind Chao) with whom Guy enjoyed some Mrs. Robinson action and thence to Los Angeles and the plain-speaking identical twin (Jaime Ray Newman) who might have been Miss Right had he made fewer mistakes.
The sameness of setting — Guy’s loyalty to one hotel chain means the room changes minimally each time — is echoed in the sameness of structure, as each playlet begins with Guy’s earnest, awkward greeting answered by the woman’s barbs, to show she’s not going to fall for his B.S. this time out. Memories are evoked and corrected, charges met with countercharges; if the ladies bear any responsibility for how things panned out, it goes unexplored.
Each sequence ends in an O. Henry-type twist that may surprise but always leaves us in the same place: Narcissistic, self-deluded Guy was and is “an emotional terrorist,” bumbling his way through romance with blind confidence in his own rectitude, heedless of the damage left in his wake. Once the point is established — approximately 15 minutes into playlet No. 1 –diminishing returns set in thereafter.
As helmed by LaBute, at least, Guy never changes his approach to suit the individual ex and never seems to apply any learning from one encounter to the next, aggravated by Feuerstein’s limited vocal and physical resources. Running through his repertoire quickly, the actor just repeats it: wincing at uncomfortable truths as if squeezing lemons; indulging in expansive jerky gestures to change the subject or make a point; clapping his hands or slapping his thigh for emphasis (a particular favorite). Sitcom experience has taught him how to time a quip but not how to sustain interest over two hours when the text keeps him static.
The women mostly fare better, their roles invested with greater coloration destined to make “Some Girl(s)” a scene study staple till the end of time. Assigned the richest character “journey,” Lisbe makes the most of her emotional rollercoaster to sadness, while Machado conveys Tyler’s good humor, sexual heat and sublimated neediness without overdoing any of it.
Newman seems too young to be Guy’s contemporary, but her luminous clarity and intelligence eminently demonstrate he was an idiot to let her get away. Only the awkward Rosalind Chao, with her implacable scowl and physical tightness, lacks a sense of the allure her character must have had for Guy back in the day. (What any of them saw in him, on the other hand, remains the evening’s biggest mystery.)
Designer Sibyl Wickersheimer nails every detail right down to the Toblerones in the minibar, though the room’s slightly different appearance each time is dutiful rather than witty. The actresses’ best friend is costumer Lynette Meyer, who never fails to summon up the perfect look, from Lisbe’s all-dolled-up, on-the-cheap elegance to Machado’s fun frock and Chao’s va-va-voom garters and stockings.
In LaBute’s cruelly brilliant “The Shape of Things” and “Fat Pig,” our perspectives on the multidimensional characters change as their predicaments deepen. As a medieval morality play in the guise of a contempo character comedy, however, “Some Girl(s)” has little to offer except a sledgehammer theme with minimal variations.