Ghosts of girlfriends past

Rogue navigates the terrain of relationships in Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s)Rogue navigates the terrain of relationships in Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s)

Sean Green and Hannah Knight lie in the bed they made.

Sean Green and Hannah Knight lie in the bed they made.

Photo By matt siracusa

1078 Gallery

820 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 343-1973

On opening night the lights stopped working. Actually, it was the light board that stopped, but for the seasoned members of the Rogue Theatre it hardly mattered. As theatergoers found their seats, the crew, calmly and impressively, went about rearranging the 1078 Gallery’s track lighting to suit the night’s performance of Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s).

As director Amber Miller explained, the play does take place in a series of hotel rooms, so the stop-gap actually did the job of conveying the nondescript locale(s) well. Plus, being a LaBute work, no matter the setting, the physical place is doomed to take a back seat to the characters’ emotional space. The playwright (The Mercy Seat) and filmaker (Your Friends & Neighbors) is known for putting the focus on the sometimes brutal world of human interpersonal interaction, and though Some Girl(s) doesn’t offer quite as much insight as it promises, it does present some compelling vignettes of what happens to those left in the wake of someone behaving badly.

The person who has done most of the bad behaving here is Guy, played by Sean Green. Guy is about to get married, but before he does he is traveling around the country to visit former girlfriends: the high-school sweetheart (now a housewife) in Seattle; the older mistress/college professor in Boston; the serious girlfriend (now a doctor) in Los Angeles; and the grad-school sex buddy in Chicago.

Why would someone about to get married want to revisit relationships past? Other than the vague sentiment of wanting to clear the air and maybe resolve unnamed issues, Guy doesn’t seem to know (as it turns out in a very late twist, he does have a reason, but it takes a pretty cynical reading of clues to predict it). Guy seems like he’s making it up as he goes along.

It’s an interesting setup, if not entirely original (Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity comes to mind), but for the most part, the Rogue players do good work filling up the blank hotel-room canvas with the familiar colors of boy/girl relationships.

Green is perfect as Guy. At first glance, he seems a harmless bright-faced puppy dog, genuinely contrite as he confesses to each woman that he’s the one with the problem and that he’s the one who made all the mistakes. But as soon as his conversations with each woman shift into examining what really went down, and the effect his selfishness had on each is illuminated, his earnest cluelessness gives way to a desire to just move past the past without truly understanding or being sorry for what he’s done.

Plus, as budding writer, he’s recently begun experiencing a measure of success through stories of romantic misadventures, informed by experiences with the very women he’s visiting. Guy’s a pig, and he kind of seems to know it, but rather than wanting to work anything out, he’s content with remaining that way.

There are some real juicy conflicts here, and the two actresses—Delovely Delisa and Hannah Knight—each playing two of the women, put their spot-on characterizations to good use. Delisa’s deadpan delivery served both the depleted housewife and the methodical Lilith Crane-esque university professor characters well. And Knight, with both the prowling free-spirited Chicago artist Tyler, and the sharp pull-no-punches doctor, brought to the fore a palpable sensuality and emotional honesty, respectively, from her two characters.

The only complaint I had during this first performance was that at times it was hard to tap into any emotional connection between the players because the lines were being delivered so quickly. There was hardly a chance for each to react to what was being said. There were a lot of words to get through here, and hopefully after a few performances (and with opening night technical snafus behind them), the players will have settled into the script.