Maura Tierney and Eric McCormack in Some Girl(s)(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Maura Tierney and Eric McCormack in Some Girl(s)
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
The battle of the boys against the girls that is playwright Neil LaBute's usual focus continues with his newest opus, Some Girl(s). But this time, he imagines the war with the spin of a sitcom or the sort of TV movie that Lifetime would banner excitedly.

Just to make sure that no one misses LaBute's intent, director Jo Bonney has cast the intermissionless 100-minute piece, which concerns an about-to-be married man who drops in our four ex-girlfrends, with actors well-schooled in situation comedy. For the lone man on stage, they have tapped Eric McCormack (who has just completed eight seasons on the Emmy-winning Will & Grace), with the women played by fellow TV vets Fran Drescher, Judy Reyes, Brooke Smith, and Maura Tierney. (Tierney currently suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous love affairs as nurse-turned-doctor Abby Lockhart on ER, but she first came to TV fame on NewsRadio.) In a way, LaBute, Bonney and everyone at MCC Theater deserve plaudits for being so up-front about what Some Girl(s) calls for. Had they chosen to stock the play with unknown New York actors, it still would have resembled a pilot for a sitcom, but might not have been as funny.

As the play opens, the carefully named Guy, who's about to be married in New York to a 22-year-old nurse-in-training, is traveling back and forth across the country, holing up in characterless hotel rooms (well designed by Neil Patel) where he hopes to right wrongs with his many exes. Unsurprisingly, Guy is soon revealed as a typical LaBute heel. Not only has he dumped every one of the women who's he arranged to meet, but he's behaved even more caddishly by being explicit about some of his affairs in an acclaimed New Yorker story pretentiously titled "The Calculus of Desire." (This sly nod to well-known womanizer Philip Roth's The Professor of Desire is certainly no accident.) Worse still, each time Guy broke up with one of these bruised women -- all of whom use the word "girl" in reference to themselves -- he hustled out of town without so much as a fare-thee-well or an apologetic phone call from wherever he landed.

"It's funny how much you know about women," says the first of the jilted lovers, Sam (Brooke Smith),a Seattle housewife, with a large dose of bitter irony. While Guy has spent plenty of time in the company of women, he actually learns nothing from or about them. This is particularly odd, since Sam, Tyler (Reyes), Lindsay (Drescher), and Bobbi (Tierney) are all savvy enough to teach him a thing or two. They haven't -- although Lindsay, a married college professor, comes closest by setting up a few minutes of sexual humiliation during her brief time with him.

Meanwhile, Guy, about whom little is known beyond his blithe cruelty to the opposite sex, is so callow, so affectless, and so obtuse that nothing gets through to him. He remains a dull cipher, even as McCormack, dressed in Mimi O'Donnell's comfortable-in-Dockers wardrobe, does an appealing variation on Will Truman.

Among the women, the big surprise here is Drescher, who puts her nasal delivery on ice to portray the icy Lindsay. Her performance is a reminder that to prevail on television, skilled actors must often narrow their range. Tierney, whose character discovers the actual depth of Guy's deceitfulness, is intelligent and forcible, while Smith as the still-smitten Sam and Reyes as the superficially independent Tyler acquit themselves gallantly. But while these players fuel Some Girl(s), they can't make the play take off.