Signature Theatre Really ReallyBy Joe Adcock • Feb 12th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Through March 25th
2:00 with one intermission
$56 and up ($20 with code GENME for age 30 and under)
Reviewed February 10th, 2012
Really Really is a really really unique revenge play. The revenge genre has been with for, say, 2500 years. Greek and Roman tragedies were generally about X killing Y because Y had killed someone who was important to X. Hamlet — said to be “the world’s most famous play” — is four hours of the title character revving up to kill the man who killed his father.
But Really Really gives the old form a new twist. The playwright himself is the revenger. He mercilessly savages his seven characters. The author (Paul Downs Colaizzo) also savages countless other obnoxious persons. His hapless seven symbolize a whole bunch of people, maybe even a whole generation — known collectively as the “me generation.” What these dreadful and appalling 20-to-30s have ever done to Colaizzo to deserve this trashing is not clear. Maybe just being dreadful and appalling is motive enough.
Myself, I think that every generation has me generation characteristics; yes, mostly when its members are in their 20s. But some people can remain selfish, self obsessed, self-centered, self involved and self-referential for a whole lifetime. If there’s a tsunami in New Guinea, it’s all about them — you know the type.
Getting back to Really Really, which is receiving its premiere production at Arlington’s Signature Theater: It is about Leigh, an impoverished scholarship student at some unnamed but infinitely swanky college. Leigh claims that Davis, one of the big men on campus, raped her at a drunken party. There’s a certain Roshomon quality to the play. In the 1950 Japanese movie different people have different reports about a crime. The audience is never sure what really happened. Also John Patrick Shanley’s much-celebrated 2004 play Doubt comes to mind. In Shanley’s drama a priest is accused of sexually molesting one of his altar boys. Really? We’re never quite sure.
Like Doubt, Really Really has echoes of sundry sensational news items.
Really Really, however, is less ambiguous than Roshomon and Doubt, which are virtuoso exercises in fascinating uncertainty. The balance of questionable and contradictory allegations in Really Really is lopsided. And Colaizzo’s writing lacks assurance — from time to time, for example, he throws in a lines about genitals. Though often out of character, such talk is usually good for a laugh at least.
At times, Signature director Matthew Gardiner and his cast of seven also lack assurance. It’s as if everyone involved feels an (understandable) distaste for characters, themes and action. The performers give the impression that they are handling Colaizzo’s material while wearing vinyl gloves. Colaizzo himself distances himself from his creations with limitless irony. Everything his characters say and do is vaguely or blatantly repugnant. As Leigh’s apartment mate Grace, Lauren Culpepper has two set pieces in which she addresses a Christian greed-is-good organization called Future Leaders of America. Grace is the group’s president. Her pathetic praises of crafty opportunism give Colaizzo a chance to satirize both Ayn Rand’s theory of noble narcissism and also certain Christian conservatives’ gospel of worldly success. Grace’s closety lesbianism functions partly as an opportunity for us to smirk at her. Also it provides an illustration of Leigh’s wiles as a manipulator. She exploits Grace’s latent lust.
As Leigh, Bethany Anne Lind comes off as a veritable collage of manipulative wiles. Underneath? Who knows? Lind gives hints of high-spirited ferocity and languid depression. As for coherence and consistency — no, forget about that.
As the accused rapist, Evan Casey expresses a combination of cloddish obtusity and boorish cynicism. But when this supposedly well-bred rugby star calls Leigh “trash,” the insult sounds like a playwright grasping for a sensational moment. It is pleasant, however, to see Casey smash a wine bottle with a frying pan. The lively violence breaks through a prevailing two-hour murk of snarky sneering.
Playwrights and actors almost invariably confess to liking some of the theater’s most awful characters. Oedipus, Lady Macbeth, Richard III, the conniving nun in Doubt — you name it. Playwrights and actors ruefully confess that they find something admirable in deeply flawed characters. And they add, “you couldn’t write the those parts or act them if you didn’t somehow like the characters.”
That doesn’t seem to be the case with Really Really. The actors give the impression that they are keeping their distance from their characters, as if to avoid contamination. And the playwright simply seems to be bent on revenge upon the lot of them.
- Cooper: Evan Casey
- Grace: Lauren Culpepper
- Jimmy: Danny Gavigan
- Johnson: Paul James
- Leigh: Bethany Anne Lind
- Davis: Jake Odmark
- Haley: Kim Rosen
- Playwright: Paul Downs Colaizzo
- Director: Matthew Gardiner
- Scenic Design: Misha Kachman
- Costume Design: Kathleen Geldard
- Lighting Design: Collin K. Bills
- Sound Design: Matt Rowe
- Fight Director: Kasey Kaleba
- Production Stage Manager: Julie Meyer
- New York Casting: Stuart Howard and Paul Hardt
- Director of Production: Michael D. Curry
Disclaimer: Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7644.
Joe Adcock lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.