Not since Venus and Fur have I had such a obsessively wonderful (probably sadistic) and difficult time trying to wrap my head around a play!
Really Really, by Paul Downs Colaizzo, is the kind of play that presents you with one predictable, familiar-sounding storyline, and slowly but surely deconstructs its own narrative until, well, instead of resolution, you get something akin to chaos. My own first words to the stranger next to me after the play were, “What the hell?!”
(It’s also the kind of play that I struggled to get tickets for and then on the last day of performances, as I stood on the wait-list line, the aforementioned stranger sold me a ticket! YAY!)
The first story up for deconstruction is the familiar one of the college girls who go to some popular athletes’ dorm-room party. They get drunk, some chick loses a tooth, another girl falls on some glass, someone sleeps with someone else, and now that someone’s boyfriend is gonna find out and get pissed. If you haven’t seen it on Law and Order, then you’ve seen it on teasers for Gossip Girl.
In this case, ‘someone’ is Leigh, played by Zosia Mamet, who is supposedly pregnant with her boyfriend’s (Evan Jonigkeit) child and sleeps with his team mate Davis (Matt Lauria). Both Leigh and Davis seem like smart, straight-headed, responsible people on the brink of graduation, who made a night of regrettable mistakes.
Or did they? In a heart-wrenching confession to her boyfriend, Jimmy, Leigh reveals that she has been raped and her shock resulted in a miscarriage. And she has the bloody sheets to prove it.
Or does she? We previously assumed that the bloody sheets were from her roommate’s bloody hand, which broke her fall on some broken glass.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that Davis, her supposed rapist, was too drunk to remember the night. It is insinuated, however, that Davis has made violent mistakes with a past girlfriend and we see his tendency towards great fits of anger in the play’s culminating scene.
As soon as you think you’ve found the answers to what REALLY happened that night, Colaizzo pulls the rug out from under you and a whole new set of motivations and power struggles present themselves. It’s kind of like an episode of Law and Order: SVU except without the cops, the trial, the answers, the one-liners, the formulaic structure, the resolutions, and everything else I hate about that show.
Yup, I went there.
The show relishes in its chaos, In fact, it’s chaos from the very beginning, when the lights go completely out and the audience is submerged in total darkness and loud, crazy techno-music. After about 15 seconds of it, I started to panic a bit– It felt like I had plopped into the middle of a club floor and someone had slipped something into my nonexistent drink –and I was really happy when the lights came back up to open on a pair a drunk girls who had gone through a whole night of my past 20 seconds.
But in case you were wondering, this show’s not just a whodunnit. In fact, I’m not sure how much it even matters. This chaotic element that I keep raving about is not just connected to the issue of college parties, heavy drinking, and the incredible repercussions of rape in society. Colaizzo makes sure to emphasize that these are students on the brink of graduation. They’re about to enter into a nonexistent job market with just four years of booksmarts and a degree. And even though they are living by themselves, they are far from independent of their parents. The parents of one student, Cooper (David Hull), decorated his palatial-looking suite. Jimmy’s parents work on campus and enable Cooper’s residency on campus even though he’s not taking any classes. We see the students discussing the anxieties of upcoming midterms and how much is at stake with one single test. We see Leigh’s roommate giving speeches at a ‘Future Leaders of America’ Conference. And when Davis is brought up on charges, we see the lasting effects this pronouncement will have on his education and career.
Throw in the fact that there are texts, voicemails, and social networking, keeping these students in constant connection with their social and digital environments… these students are on a fritz. With everything on the wire, they cannot afford to look out for anyone but themselves.
These anxieties subsequently transfer into the social-sexual realm. Nights of partying to relieve the fears of an impending future. Power struggles through rape (or claims of rape) and adultery. In this ‘me generation,’ where everyone has something to lose, or something to gain, who can we look towards for a better future? And that’s where the chaos of Really Really really lies.