Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Really Really: Don't

Really Really made me appreciate David Cromer was in the driver's seat as director because his work imbued the play by new writer Paul Downs Colaizzo with far more credibility than the material deserved.  With dislocated spaces, rhythmic pauses and an understanding of the disconnection of the social media generation, I found his direction stunning to watch even if the play itself left me cold.  It's the story of a keg party, a sexual assault and the fallout among friends, frenemies and peers with a lens on the individualistic, self-involved Me generation trapped between hovering parents and a unknown, bleak future.

The play seemed controversial for controversy's sake--like a kid who knows he's not supposed to pick his nose but does so anyway, flaunting his indiscretion.  Yes the audience was atwitter afterwards but I'd really prefer a play that makes you think than just a play that sets off a firecracker in the theater to judge how you would react to it.  I'm sure the writer thought he was trying to say something about the Me Generation, class issues, sexual politics, and our notions about sexual assault but each topic got such a blunt, drive-by treatment that I felt like we were ticking off a long list of "what's wrong with millennials" according to boomers.  If he was trying to bring to light the issues of his generation he's taken an incredibly insulting and dismissive approach to it.  Since everything was delivered in extreme, loud, and broad strokes the impact became dulling over time.  Tell me again how shitty people can be and that you are the first generation to be shitty to each other ever and we can't imagine how shitty you can actually be. Also can you hand me that hammer I'd like to bash my own skull in but keep talking, don't mind me. 

And then there was the excessive subtext as text...making these characters pure constructs rather than people. Boo I say.  Boo.

So let's get down to brass tacks, plot twists and all.  SPOILER ALERT--AND I MEAN ALL THE SPOILERS....the lead character Leigh (Zosia Mamet) is raped at a party by all around nice guy and the guy she's had a crush on for years, Davis (Matt Lauria) who was so drunk he has no memory of what happened.  She uses the rape to cover up lies she's told her rich but dull boyfriend Jimmy (Evan Jonigkeit) in an attempt to blackmail him to marry her.  After Davis tries to find out what happened and try to understand why she has made these allegations, she then has consensual sex with him.  And then to make sure she doesn't get caught by her boyfriend for cheating on him she pretends that this consensual sex was rape. And she may actually turn into a snarling crazy person at this point when she expresses some sort of glee in destroying Davis's life for what seems like her own pleasure and not for what he did.  I mean if she could have gone full Poltergeist head spin that might have delivered the right tone to this moment in the show.  Davis then, in a rage, rapes her in full view of the audience. 

The murky waters of real and false rape allegations are not well traversed here mainly because it does not seem the writer's primary interest--it seems as if it is just the saucy vehicle for his generational analysis. 


Authenticity was to be found in this play, but it was fleeting.  The most effective moment in the entire play for me was the scene between Davis and his roommate Cooper (David Hull) where Davis is freaking out at being called into the Dean's office over the assault and as he's talking to Cooper but Cooper, mid-conversation stops talking and starts texting someone else.  The pause as Cooper texts, responds, and texts again as Davis is suspended in time waiting for his friend's attention to return to him said more about the generational issues than the lectures on what the Me Generation thinks of itself.  When you want your friend's support, understanding and attention and the friend is distracted by the gossip as it explodes in real-time on his phone, it says everything you need to know about the characters' self-involvement and disconnection.

As for the performances, I think Zosia Mamet was intentionally opaque but she came across as flat. Either she was yelling or blank.  Leigh is supposed to be a bit of cipher so I blame much of this on the script but it did not help give any life to this lifeless character who could have used a dollop of emotional truth from time to time.  As much as I disliked the over-the-top dialogue she was forced to deliver Aleque Reid did a very good job as Leigh's Pomeranian obsessed sister and Lauren Culpepper was great as Leigh's roommate the hyperactive, overachiever voice of her generation. 

The fractured and rotating set reminded me a bit of the fractured space used in Act II of Cromer's Sweet Bird of Youth.  But here it made more sense and kept the feeling of the ground shifting beneath our feet as the story unfolded in truths and lies. 

For me, I was able to sit back and enjoy Cromer's grown-up directing work even if it was wasted on this half-baked juvenilia.

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