NEW YORK—The world looks rather bleak as offered by playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo in his drama “Really Really,” presented by MCC Theater.
Leigh (Zosia Mamet), a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks, claims she was raped at a raucous party in the apartment of several college seniors—young men who all come from serious money.
However, almost as soon as the accusations surface, there are questions as to their validity. Davis (Matt Lauria), the student who’s supposed to have done the deed, doesn’t remember it, being completely drunk at the time.
No witnesses can confirm exactly what happened, and other facts don’t quite add up. For example, Leigh claims she was pregnant—a fact known only to her loyal boyfriend Jimmy (Evan Jonigkeit). What Davis did, she claims, caused her to lose the baby, thus explaining the blood on the bedsheet in her own apartment later on. But didn’t Leigh’s roommate Grace (Lauren Culpepper) badly cut herself on some broken glass that same night?
It’s questions like these that turn “Really Really” into a tantalizing mystery, as some of the characters and the audience try to unravel the truth of the matter.
However, the playwright is not concerned with the what or even the why of the situation (though the latter issue does play a role in the eventual conclusion). He instead chooses to focus on the individuals involved, either directly or peripherally.
What rapidly becomes clear is that none of the characters are likable as they are chiefly concerned with protecting their own self-interests.
Cooper (David Hull) wants to stay on campus for a couple more years and live the life of a professional student; Johnson (Kobi Libii) wants to graduate and start climbing the corporate ladder; and Leigh’s sister, Haley (Aleque Reid), wants a piece of the good life that Leigh has carved out with Jimmy.
Even Jimmy, who loves Leigh dearly and vows to stand by her no matter what, has fully planned out their future life together, with his own opinions and preferences pointedly taking precedence over Leigh’s.
Yet what’s missing is a clear explanation of what the playwright is trying to say. Colaizzo paints a depressing picture of a group of people you wouldn’t want to count on.
The group’s cynicism is echoed with Grace, a wannabe activist, who talks about how important it is for everyone to become involved. Yet because no one really listens to her comments, they sound inane.
The negativity itself isn’t enough to explain the play.
Is “Really Really” a comment on a certain class of people or a sad dismissal of the times we live in? Is Colaizzo telling us we have to care less about ourselves and more about others? Is he offering a cautionary tale about the dangers of wanting what you don’t have? Or is he pointing out the perils of one’s personal excesses?
Without a clearer through line or strong emotional hook, the play lacks a clear enough purpose.
In addition the playwright, who seems to be trying to channel David Mamet, offers a final denouement which, though powerfully presented, comes off as emotionally weak.
Director David Cromer does a fine job staging the play, despite the script’s limitations. He also deserves great credit in helping the actors believably show the depths their individual characters will go to in protecting themselves.
Acting is good throughout. Especially high marks go to Ms. Mamet as the quiet Leigh, though it’s a quiet that perhaps hides something deeper. Also excellent is Lauria as Davis, a young man trying to keep his life together as it begins to fall apart.
Culpepper projects earnestness as Grace, and Hull and Libii add both comic relief and serious desperation as Cooper and Johnson. Reid works well as Haley, though her character and actions often seem stereotypical.
The sets by David Korins are quite good, as is the sound design and original composition work by Daniel Kluger.
A powerful tale with a pessimistic message, “Really Really” has a number of things going for it. While the overall story and conclusion aren’t quite where they need to be, the individual performances are definitely spot on, as is the sure-handed and fluid direction.
Judd Hollander is the New York correspondent for the London publication The Stage.