06/09/2008 - 04/10/2008
One guy … four exes … four cities … – one hell of a trip …
Starring Toby Leach with Jacque Drew, Rachel Forman, Danielle Mason, Jacqueline Nairn
Some Girl(s), Neil LaBute’s funny, intelligent and sharply entertaining comedy about men, women, love and relationships opens in CIRCA One on Saturday 6th September, and runs until 4th October.
A wickedly amusing, intriguing exposé of the modern male and his take on life, love and success, Some Girl(s) follows a soon-to-be-married writer as he flies across the United States to pay a last visit to four ex-girlfriends before taking the plunge.
By turns humorous, serious, truthful and hilarious Some Girl(s) offers a witty and elegant view of love and betrayal from the brilliant pen of Neil LaBute (Fat Pig, The Shape of Things, The Mercy Seat) who is acclaimed for his razor-sharp insights into the minefield of romantic relationships.
Some Girl(s) premiered at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End in 2005 (starring David Schwimmer), and it has gone on to be performed around the globe.
For Circa director Ross Jolly, Some Girl(s) is a return to one of his favourite playwrights. "I love his ability to create exhilarating, funny, relevant dramas," he says. "As LaBute has said, ‘People are pretty damn fascinating anyway, but put them together in couples and they are downright startling to behold’."
Talking about his play, LaBute says, "Some Girl(s) sprang from a desire to do something a little different: an entertainment made up of a series of duets that features a hearty number of women’s roles and follows the journey of a modern-day Candide as he stumbles through a landscape familiar to most men – the mess he’s made of his romantic life on his way to manhood."
"I’ve always been an ardent admirer of the cinema of Eric Rohmer, that master chronicler of the nearly farcical sexual escapades of his fellow Parisians, and I suppose Some Girl(s) is my attempt to capture a bit of that gentle, wise, funny spirit on the theatrical stage. Rohmer just seems to get it; in film after film he simply allows people to ‘be’ and then stands back, amused, at the inevitable hijinks that follow.
I hope I have cornered even a bit of his wily, bracing and humane essence."
Circa’s lineup for Some Girl(s) stars an exciting mix of new and familiar faces …
Toby Leach, who won a Chapman Tripp Best Supporting Actor Award nomination for his portrayal of Carter in the highly successful Fat Pig last year, returns to Circa (and Wellington) to play the part of ‘the man’.
He is joined by Jacque Drew (Shortland Street‘s Martha Riley) and Jacqueline Nairn (The Women), both of whom have come down from Auckland especially for this production, Rachel Forman (Blackbird) making her Circa 1 debut, and Danielle Mason, who was last seen in Love Song in Circa 2.
"LaBute … an original voice … a genius" (New Yorker)
"Some Girl(s) exposes the selfish motivations behind saying sorry … LaBute’s vignettes of man behaving badly and his probing emotional scars will make almost everybody, male and female, wince with recognition" (Independent on Sunday)
"Highlights the gaps that exist even between those who have been so close, the way in which two sides of the same story can clash so unexpectedly" (Sunday Times)
"LaBute is excellent at capturing the mixture of embarrassment and exhilaration that attends such attempts to revisit the past" (Daily Telegraph)
"Some Girl(s) will delight women and make men squirm" (Daily Telegraph)
"A great evening’s entertainment" (Radio 2)
Opens SATURDAY 6TH September at 8pm and runs until 4th October
$20 PREVIEW – Friday 5th September – 8pm
$20 SUNDAY SPECIAL – Sunday 7th September – 4pm
FORUM NIGHT – Tuesday 9th September
Tuesday & Wednesday 6.30pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8pm
Adults – $38; Concessions – $30; Friends of Circa – $28
Under 25s – $20; Groups 6+ s- $32
BOOKINGS: Circa Theatre 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992 www.circa.co.nz
Man: TOBY LEACH
Sam: JACQUELINE NAIRN
Tyler: RACHEL FORMAN
Lindsay: JACQUE DREW
Bobbi: DANIELLE MASON
Set Designed by JOHN HODGKINS
Lighting Design by PHILLIP DEXTER
Costume design by GILLIE COXILL
Stage Manager: Eric Gardiner
Operator: Marcus McShane
Sound: Jeremy Cullen, Ross Jolly
Dialect Coach: Jacque Drew
Publicity: Claire Treloar
Graphic Design: Rose Miller, Toolbox Creative
Photography: Stephen A'Court
House Manager: Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office: Linda Wilson
Flashy and ‘youth’ orientated
Review by Melody Nixon 14th Sep 2008
Neil LaBute has a reputation for ‘seeing the truth’ in our modern world. In Some Girl(s) I’m not sure I buy his interpretation of the modern values-crisis, or see it as particularly revealing. The characters he presents centre stage are often so borderline in the choices they make that what we are shown ends up more as a representation of LaBute’s own values than an ‘objective’ critique of modern Man (and indeed, despite the presence of female characters, these plays are very much focused on the male psyche).. The fact that no realisation on the part of the central character takes place arguably shows LaBute has little issue with the choices of his characters. More pointedly, the playwright sets up menial challenge to those viewers who might share the same values as the protagonist himself.
To be sure, Toby Leach as the central character of ‘Man’ holds the whole piece together well. He flops from one scenario to the next in a dim-witted daze of emotional struggles and superficial attractions; for the most part we are encouraged to laugh with him as we witness his many foibles. His initial scene with first-ever girlfriend ‘Sam’ (Jacqueline Nairn) is the most emotive, perhaps because Sam is given a complete human background and her grievances are allowed to be aired. There is a sense that after this first scene LaBute coughed out the rest of the play in a haze of repetition; and the string of female characters who follow quickly defy any initial promises of depth.
Woman number three, Lindsay (played elegantly by a well cast Jacque Drew) is the natural follow on act from cute, sexy, and impossibly unfettered Tyler (Rachel Forman). Drew’s character represents the poised, wise older woman who has gained independence from patriarchal holds. LaBute even goes so far as to make her a professor of gender studies. It almost shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Lindsay falls victim to stereotyped ideas of beauty and youth, and ultimately ties her value up with her physical body. While contemplating the strength of her husband’s love and discussing her work as a professor, Lindsay cannot suppress the unspeakably inane urge to ask Man if his current beau is younger than she is.
Man’s final girl Bobbi (Danielle Mason) is obviously everything Man has always wanted, but his ‘modern issues’ of upsizing and shopping-around have prevented him from having. To add impact to the idea that LaBute is actually telling us about his own uncritical process as a modern man, the ‘real love’ of Man’s life is embodied in the typical ideal of a good woman presented in today’s media. This wonder woman who we never actually get to know is both confident as a doctor and as a busty blonde; but remains the most one-dimensional of all the women presented. This is not to detract from Mason’s performance which is as nuanced and subtle as you’re perhaps going to get with a character like Bobbi from LA.
It is difficult to critique a play that has, as always, been beautifully produced by Circa. I find it is the choice of play rather than the production of the play that riles me in this instance. Some Girl(s) is flashy and ‘youth’ orientated; but don’t believe its promises, it won’t tell you anything you don’t know about the supposed ‘modern man.
Originally published in The Lumière Reader.
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Shifting relationships brilliantly played out
Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 10th Sep 2008
Circa Theatre has become somewhat of a champion of Neil LaBute plays, having produced at least three previously. And in this one, as with their other productions, they have brilliantly brought to life LaBute’s quirky story line and cryptic dialogue.
On the surface it appears a fairly simple story; a 30 something guy, about to be married, decides to divest himself of the guilt of failed relationships, so sets up one-off meetings in different cities with four of the women from his past life in order to try to make amends.
But being LaBute, unusual elements creep in along the way that gives the play an increasing edge of mystery and intrigue as to the man’s real intentions, not the least of which is that he is only known as Man – by the end of the play the symbolism of this for the all-American male becomes rather obvious.
The four women Man meets are Sam in Seattle, his high school girlfriend whom he abandoned before the prom; Tyler in Chicago, a free spirit from his sexually experimenting days; Lindsay in Boston, his older married teaching colleague with whom he had an affair; and Bobbi in Los Angeles, from his university days and the one that got away.
Man is also a writer which has a bearing on his motives for seeing these women, revealed somewhat startlingly towards the end of the play.
LaBute’s writing has mellowed in this play. The acerbic interchanges between the Man and his women are not as sharp or as caustic as in previous plays. To compensate, he has given his characters, especially the women, more depth and substance, and, as a consequence, Some Girl(s) becomes a much more satisfying play.
And director Ross Jolly’s powerfully presented production enhances LaBute’s writing to make it totally engaging and engrossing from start to finish. And the four women in this production, three [two] of whom are new to Circa, make a superb job of fleshing out their characters.
There is the suppressed sexuality of Jacqueline Nairn’s mundane, married Sam, in complete contrast to the sexual aggression of Rachel Forman’s Tyler. The dominatrix like Lindsay is wonderfully realsied by Jacque Drew, as is Danielle Mason’s lithesome Bobbi who finally does the dirty on Man – or does she?
Toby Leach as Man has the most difficult part to play in that he has to react differently each time while still maintaining his underlying motive of why he wants to meet these women. This he does skilfully, at times vulnerable at others irritatingly self assured and despicable yet with a charm that the women can’t help falling for, all of which adds up to a great production of a fascinating and highly entertaining play.
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‘Where truth lies’ quest done proud
Review by John Smythe 08th Sep 2008
In the old morality play, God gets Death to summon Everyman to Heaven to make his reckoning, and it comes to pass that only his Good Deeds will accompany him beyond the grave. The more modern variation on this theme has men revisiting – or being revisited by – the women they have loved (or not) … in a variety of circumstances and for various reasons.
Thirty years ago Circa produced English playwright E A Whitehead’s Old Flames in which three of a man’s ex-lovers and his mother lure him into a house boat and exact their revenge for his male chauvinist crimes. I saw a Melbourne production and recall thinking it could only have been written by a man because despite its feminist aspirations, he was still the centre of the universe for all four women
More recently (2005), in the Jim Jarmuch film Broken Flowers, a man whose umpteenth relationship has just broken up is provoked to track down four old flames (well five, except one is dead) when he gets an anonymous letter telling him he has a 19 year-old son. Then there’s the even more recent flipside where, in the Catherine Johnson conceive musical Mama Mia (stage show 2003, film 2008), a young woman invites all her potential fathers to her wedding, thus offering some insight into her mother’s romantic history …
Thus Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s) (2005) is part of a widespread genre. A nameless Man, about to be married, revisits four ex-girlfriends in a quest, he claims, to make amends, right the wrongs, clean the slate … Impending marriage, it seems, replaces death as the stimulus for taking account if your life so far.
Alternatively, or simultaneously, he could be double checking he has not made a mistake; that he hadn’t previously met the right woman at the wrong time. Or maybe his real motivation is even more ulterior than that. LaBute, master-craftsman that he is, keeps us guessing as to how much, if any, of the Man’s pitches to the women are sincere.
En route we meet four very different women and get some sense of his life’s journey so far, relationship-wise. As a teacher of writing who has had some small success in getting published, he now seeks to further his fortunes in that regard. The Man’s moral position then – as they deign to meet him in same-chain hotel rooms in Seattle, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles – is not dissimilar to that of the young woman artist in The Shape of Things.
His quest may be to distil truths rooted in his personal experiences because that is the essence of his chosen art form; he explores and exposes himself and his world as a gift to humanity. Or he could simply be a cynical exploiter of people’s lives in his never-ending search for material. If the former, we can happily relish the insights; if the latter what is our moral position as avid consumers of the result?
Toby Leach keeps us guessing throughout the four scenes, skilfully treading the knife-edge between misguided sincerity and plausible deviousness. As with the male leads in Bash, The Mercy Seat and Fat Pig, LaBute’s incipient need to reveal the modern American male as morally moribund, if not corrupt in a rather wet way, leaves us asking why the relatively robust women he creates would be attracted to them.
In Some Girl(s), however, the attractions are past, he and they were different then, and none of the women is in a position to see him as clearly as we in the audience do.
Director Ross Jolly has cast the play impeccably and orchestrated each movement to play out with a different dynamic according to each new ‘instrument’ that duets with the Man. The generic hotel room is splendidly realised by John Hodgkins and lit by Phillip Dexter, and Gillie Coxill’s costume designs speak volumes about each character.
As the somewhat unadventurous Seattle housewife and mother Sam, Jacqueline Nairn neatly captures the ambivalence of the ex-high-school sweetheart towards her lost first love. That whole highly recognisable rite of passage grounds the play well. And who can blame him from escaping the total predictability of life as a Safeway manager? (LaBute does like his little word-plays.)
In total contrast Rachel Foreman’s high-spirited artist Tyler romps into the Chicago reunion with amoral gusto, challenging the Man’s fidelity to his fiancée to a point where, having perhaps admired his capacity to resist, we have to ask – as the lights fade on the ‘will-they or won’t they?’ moment – what we (well, us blokes, anyway) would do in such a situation.
While the four women are not the only lovers he has had in the lead up to his engagement, the older, still married and fairly formidable academic Lindsay is, I think, the most recent of those we see. In a strong yet emotionally ambiguous performance, Jacque Drew (who played Sam in last year’s Silo production) brings a very different flavour to the status game, putting him through the wringer as she exacts her revenge through humiliation.
As Bobbi, the radiologist with whom the Man exposes his inner-workings most clearly, Danielle Mason is compellingly dispassionate. She was between his graduation and masters (before he went off to do his Masters in Chicago and took up with Tyler) and is not above playing mind-games, which may well have been a mutual turn-on back in the day. But now that we have some measure of him, and because key information has been seeded in the Tyler scene, our capacity to question and analyse his present behaviour simultaneously alienates us from him as a character while drawing us deeper into the observational puzzle.
The final phone-call back to his fiancée is likewise riddled with intrigue. In summary, LaBute delivers another investigation into where truth lies, and Jolly and his cast do it proud.
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*Some Girl(s) is Circa’s fourth Ross Jolly-directed Neil LaBute play in five years – The Shape of Things (2004), The Mercy Seat (2005), Fat Pig (2007) – plus the Silo production of Bash: Latter Day Plays toured to Circa Two in 2005.
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