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Really Really – A Cautionary Tale From Generation Me At Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
February 14, 2012
Special to The Alexandria Times 

 Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo wants his audiences to know that his play was inspired by three seminal moments in his young life.  The first was seeing Doubt, a play by John Patrick Shanley that filled him with both excitement and dread.  Excitement that “Theatre could be amazing,” and dread that it, “operates on very few rules and offers no guarantees.”

His second aha moment was, “…the unfolding of an investigation concerning several college students’ involvement in a brutal crime in the months before my graduation from NYU.” – an event that challenged the senior to rethink his own relationships and the questionable character of his peers.

The book by Jean Twenge, Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – And More Miserable Than Ever Before was another influence.  “I thought of myself as an obvious exception, when in reality, that mentality alone made me the prototype,” he reveals with a refreshing honesty.

It’s difficult to be patient with the Generation Me college students in Really Really because they are depicted as crass, self-indulgent wannabes, utterly lacking in personal responsibility, while living in a bubble of entitlement and lax morals.  Sound familiar? But Colaizzio wants us to take them as they are, “members of what the older generation have created,” as he describes it.  That’s a hard pill to swallow, but fodder for reflection.

The world premiere play, an X-rated production oddly reminiscent of the long-running sitcom, Friends, shows Colaizzo’s formidable talent as a comedy writer.  Yet aside from the clever comic relief, we are still faced with the dilemma of caring about a self-serving, scurrilous, homophobic, sexist and conniving group of students with paper-thin allegiances – quite a poisonous brew that’s compounded by binge drinking and interminable attempts to hook up and share the deets.

(from left to right) Danny Gavigan (as Jimmy), Paul James (as Johnson) and Evan Casey (as Cooper) talking about last night’s big party in "Really Really". At Virginia’s Signature Theatre through March 25, 2012. www.signature-theatre.org. Photo: Scott Suchman.

(from left to right) Danny Gavigan (as Jimmy), Paul James (as Johnson) and Evan Casey (as Cooper) talking about last night’s big party in "Really Really". Photo: Scott Suchman.

Grace (Lauren Culpepper) and Leigh (Bethany Anne Lind) are roomies.  Their male counterparts Johnson (Paul James), Davis (Jake Odmark), and Cooper (Evan Casey) are on the rugby teammates sharing a frat house-style apartment replete with the requisite beer refrigerator and video games.  Jimmy (Danny Gavigan), Leigh’s conflicted boyfriend and son of the college’s dean, comes by regularly for booty calls, much to Grace’s dismay.  Smooth scene transitions are accomplished by Misha Kachman’s set design, which places their two apartments side-by-side on the Ark’s long yet narrow stage.

The play opens as Grace and Leigh stagger home laughing hysterically after attending the boys’ annual blowout kegger.  The following morning Grace leaves town to deliver a speech to the Future Leaders of America and we begin to sense the morality theme of the play.  Hoping to inspire her young attendees to take personal responsibility for their actions, she prophetically warns, “A great part of the formula for success is the ability to say ‘no’,” and notes ironically that all the personal communications devices used by the Me Generation start with the letter “I”.

After an accusation and follow-up investigation of the party’s activities, the friends are forced to face the consequences of their reckless lifestyle and betrayals rise to surface like fresh beer suds, as battle lines are drawn between the sexes and lies of convenience are held out as barter.  But memories of the fateful night are clouded.  Was there a date rape? Or was it a fantasy?  Everyone’s too drunk to remember, or are they?

Bethany Anne Lind (as Leigh) returning home from an on-campus party in "Really Really". Photo: Scott Suchman.

Bethany Anne Lind (as Leigh) returning home from an on-campus party in "Really Really". Photo: Scott Suchman.

Really Really is a cautionary tale with a familiar ring – that of the headline-grabbing Virginia trial of privileged college scion George Huguely V in the ongoing Yardley Love case, where similar patterns of alcohol, parties, hook ups and violence are a familiar campus way of life.

Fine performances from the ensemble cast, with Lind in the lead crafting a nuanced portrait of the sociopathic coed, Leigh.  Wait for the entrance in the second act by Kim Rosen, as Leigh’s feisty sister Haley, who is memorable as the prep outsider conjuring up Snooki from MTV’s Jersey Shore.

Through March 25th at Signature Theatre (at Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.

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