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A CurtainUp London London Review
Some Girl(s)

Guys always mean well before they fuck someone over.
---- Bobbi
The sense of excitement in the theatre was there as a new and younger audience assembled at the Gielgud Theatre for the World Premiere of Some Girl(s), by Neil Labute, a study of sexual politics. I suspect that few knew the name of the playwright they had come to see. They were unashamed fans of David Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller for ten years in the multi-award winning US sitcom Friends.

Now David Schwimmer does not deserve to be labelled as a television actor making his debut on the London stage. His acting credentials are much more significant than merely television. He has been involved with theatre through the company he founded, Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago and he has acted onstage in Williamstown and Los Angeles. Some Girls Schwimmer has made a brave choice in taking the role of a serial commitment-phobe, a man with a string of relationships which have ended "badly" when he cut and ran.

Some Girl(s) sees Man now 33, who is about to break with tradition and get married to a 22 year old nurse. Before his marriage he decides to revisit some of the women he loved and left. As a teacher turned writer, he has already "used" them for material in his short stories for a magazine.

The four women are, in Seattle, Chicago and Boston. In Seattle, there's Sam (Catherine Tate) his high school sweetheart whom he abandoned before the prom. Tyler (Sara Powell) is a free spirit from Chicago who taught him much sexually. In Boston it's married woman Lindsay (Lesley Manville) and the one who got away, his university sweetheart, Bobbi (Saffron Burrows).

Labute has cleverly constructed his play so that it's is not as simple as love rat does dirty on four women and faces up to them for censure and absolution. For instance, how many of us would condemn Man for his ambivalence in not wanting to settle down as a high school student? What we do condemn is the unkindness of his chickening out of the prom night. Sam has only recently discovered that Man took another girl to a prom that year, a scene written carefully so that Sam, prickly and bitter at the remembered hurt, echoes each of Man's relationship words ( for example, Man: "I needed to see you." Sam: "NEEDED?" with comic effect).

Man's encounter with Chicago hip chick Tyler who is sexually aggressive and prompts him to be coy and virginal and so middle-aged as he backs off. We are clear that this was more a meeting of bodies than minds from the laid back Tyler's , "I never knew what the fuck you were talking abou." But it is with Lesley Manville's aggrieved Lindsay that Labute reminds us how his writing can bite. Man digs his own hole under Lindsay's well thought out cross-examination and her punishment fits the crime. She even ropes in the assistance of her cuckolded (by Man) husband. Finally with Bobbi, played by the beautiful Saffron Burrows, Man has to face up to the lasting consequences of his behaviour as an "emotional terrorist".

All sets are rather anonymous hotel bedrooms on Man's now truncated farewell tour before his nuptials. (He had planned to visit many more but is finding the cost of flights and hotel rooms exorbitant.) In fact such is the anonymity of hotel rooms, the Los Angeles set bears more than a passing resemblance to the Seattle one.

I liked the play but I think I would have liked it more if Man were not played by David Schwimmer. His boyish, relaxed stance did not convey for me someone who should be at one level essentially dislikeable, an opportunist littering the country with women he has used, at another so attractive that women fall for him. He seems too anxious, too vulnerable. It is not that Schwimmer cannot act, only that he seems miscast. The women are better cast but it is Lesley Manville who takes the acting accolades for her tense portrait of potential "bunny boiler" Lindsay.

This week Londoners have a chance to compare Some Girls with another Labute play, This is How It Goes which opens at the Donmar Warehouse on 31st May.

Bash (London)
The Distance From Here (London & New York)
The Shape of Things(London and NYC)
The Shape of Things (Berkshires)
Fat Pig
This Is How It Goes (Public Theater, NY)

Some Girls
Written by Neil Labute
Directed by David Grindley

Starring: David Schwimmer
With: Catherine Tate, Sara Powell, Lesley Manville, Saffron Burrows
Design: Jonathan Fensom
Lighting: Jason Taylor
Sound: Gregory Clarke
Running time: One hour forty minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0870 890 1105
Booking to 13th August 2005
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th May performance at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1 (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
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©Copyright 2005, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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