“Some Girl(s),” Presented by Mask and Wig
Over the weekend of October 19th-21st, Southwestern University Mask & Wig presented Neil Labute’s one-act play, Some Girl(s).
The play follows a male protagonist simply dubbed “guy” through a series of interactions with his past romantic entanglements as he travels the country. His motivation for undertaking this pilgrimage– or at least the motivation he claims– is to make things right with his exes before he makes the final, culminating commitment of marriage to his fiancee. Guy is a writer and, as becomes increasingly clear, an egomaniac who uses intimate relationships as fodder for his creative work, with little-to-no consideration for how his actions affect those he leaves behind.
Some Girl(s) was the S.U. directorial debut of Christian Erben, a sophomore theatre major with a focus on performance and directing. Her point of view was conveyed clearly through clever choices in staging and blocking, as well as the statement she included in her curtain speech about the show’s relevance to current events:
“When I read this script for the first time, I knew I wanted to direct it,” Erben told the audience. “I felt it was very relevant to the world and climate we currently live in, and it is. With the #MeToo movement and with the rise of the woman, there is no better time, in my mind, to put this piece of art up on the stage… I hope when you see this show, the stories of these women resonate with you. Maybe you can even see yourself in these women. It has been a blessing to get to work with these five actors, and I am so excited for you to see their work in making this story known.” At the end of her speech, Erben unfolds a piece of paper and holds it up to display what is inscribed upon it in black marker: #METOO.
Powerful performances and artful direction combine to produce an incredibly provocative show. Although the show’s quality is noteworthy on its own, the time constraints of the production schedule make the end result even more remarkable. The process of rehearsing, costuming, and set-designing the show was completed by the all-student cast and crew in less than two weeks.
Each of the four scenes takes place in a different hotel room in a different city. The set changes subtly with each interaction– a slight variation on the furniture arrangement, different generic art on the walls. It’s clear that Guy stays at the same hotel chain at every stop along his journey. The near-identical setting of the different scenes reflects how Guy perceives his past relationships: as interchangeable, simply another option in his search for the best possible mate, just a step along the journey, merely a means to an end– much like the mini-bar water bottles that he uses and discards thoughtlessly throughout the course of the show. This is noteworthy because the play’s text illustrates just how wrong he is about his past romantic partners. His obsession with shaping his personal narrative renders him incapable of appreciating any of these women for the complex, three-dimensional individuals that they are. Guy reduces each of them to mere moving parts in his story, only functioning to propel him forward along his arc.That’s why Sam, Tyler, Lindsay, and Bobbi are given the privilege of a name, unlike the nondescript Guy
The black box theatre and the hotel room setting makes for an intimate dynamic between performers and those watching. Audience members sit spellbound throughout the play, alternating between rapt silence and audible gasps.
The first woman with whom Guy meets is Sam, played by junior theatre major Ashley Howell. The scene sets the tone well for the rest of the show. Howell brings a great deal of nuance to a role that could easily have been reduced to a generic woman scorned. Throughout her conversation with Guy, she maintains a demeanor of forced calm with flashes of combativeness as her anger shows through. It’s clear that she has romanticized their relationship for so many years and she is infuriated with Guy– and herself– for that.
The second woman is Tyler, played by first year theatre major Emma Brian. She brings an extremely sexual energy to the role, which she keeps up even when she isn’t doing or saying anything provocative. Tyler seems to have positive feelings towards Guy, at least compared to the others, which seems to arise from her relatively low expectations for their relationship– she was never looking for anything more than a good time, so Guy’s emotional incompetency didn’t take a great toll on her.
The third is Lindsay, played by Mary Ruth Knackstedt, a junior theatre major. This is doubtlessly the hardest scene to watch, as evidenced by the tension in the audience as it goes on. Lindsay had engaged in an extramarital affair with Guy when they worked as colleagues at a local university. Her demeanor is very restrained, almost calculated. The other women don’t seem to come in with a plan for how to handle the situation, but this scene plays out like a chess game; Lindsay manipulating Guy with every word, touch, and movement. Knackstedt brings a great deal of maturity to the part, making her seem several years Guy’s senior.
The fourth and final woman with whom Guy meets is Bobbi, played by first year Logan Holmes. Holmes is truly the standout of the show, doing a great deal with every line, every expression, every second of the scene. She brings a genuine aire to the role, living in every moment, not shying away from every difficult dynamic and uncomfortable emotion of the scene.
In this final interaction, cracks in Guy’s facade start to appear in earnest. He attempts with increasing desperation to gain validation from Bobbi, ultimately pleading with her to take him back, despite pronouncing his love for his fiancee in every preceding scene. His speech becomes more and more self-centered and manic as he struggles to justify his behavior and the harm he’s done to those around him. At the emotional peak of the scene, Bobbi moves to leave and Guy pushes her onto the bed, looming over her and casting the whole show in a new light. This is another moment where Holmes shines. She doesn’t overdo this moment– where the terror that women carry inside them all the time is suddenly so immediate— but simply freezes. Her stillness and expression tell the audience everything they need to know and banishes any lingering doubts that Guy might just be misunderstood.
Senior French major Dillon Betros deserves commendation for his performance as Guy. It would be very easy for the actor playing him to look at this character objectively and develop a dislike for him, but Dillon manages to walk a very fine line with his portrayal. He presents neither a caricature of heartlessness, or makes any attempt to soften the genuinely harmful nature of Guy’s behavior. He maintains a well-meaning aire, even when doing irreparable harm to those around him. It is a brilliant embodiment of a straight, white, cisgendered male who is desperately trying to gain self-awareness, but has none of the tools to do so.
I left the theatre overwhelmingly impressed with what Erben and her talented cast and crew were able to accomplish, and the palpable impact the performance has on everyone who watches it. Some Girl(s) presents a powerful argument about gendered behavior in contemporary culture.
Mask & Wig will be staging a student production of the iconic rock musical Spring Awakening in early December. Follow them on Facebook @sumaskandwig to stay updated.