Yes, Really: Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo puts his own generation on trial.
Yes, Really: Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo puts his own generation on trial.

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You will hear, repeatedly, that Really Really—a tautly produced, smartly directed world premiere from 26-year-old writer Paul Downs Colaizzo by way of Signature Theatre—is a bracing, bravura bit of sociological showmanship. You may have heard this already from the paper of record; you will certainly hear it—really, really often—from Signature. Believe it if you like.

But while Colaizzo’s wordsmithery and the craft of cast and crew are considerable, the play itself is a shockingly soulless thing— vulgar and self-indulgent in its nihilism, brutal in its judgments, with no discernible shred of human sympathy for its characters. It’s never a good idea to speculate overmuch on the psychological impulses that drive an artist to create, but it’s Colaizzo’s own generation (roughly) that he’s putting on trial here, and Really Really is enough to make you wonder what the hell they did to the poor guy.

We’re at a college, nameless but apparently lousy with privileged East Coast types, and there’s been a kegger among the rugger-buggers. Two of the more hungover specimens (Evan Casey and Jake Odmark) compare notes on who banged what the previous evening, in language Neil LaBute might blush to put in the mouths of his own heathens. (When Casey’s Cooper isn’t dispensing casual cocksucker putdowns, that is, with that frattish frequency and appetite that always suggests a particular fascination with the subject.) Meanwhile, on the other half of Misha Kachman’s duplexed-apartment set, we’ve seen two young women (Lauren Culpepper and Bethany Anne Lind) stagger home, happily or seemingly so, from a night on the town. One goes to bed, the other lingers and blanches. “Ow,” she says, before the lights go down.

What follows is a two-hour whodunit in which even the “it” remains in question; there’s a charge of rape, and a clear indication that something of a sexual nature did in fact transpire, but between booze blackouts on the one hand and a seriously unreliable narrator on the other, there’s no way—by design—to know what might actually have happened. Which: OK? You’re a clever plot-spinner. Tell me why I should care about the people caught up in it.

I suspect Colaizzo couldn’t if he tried, despite the fresh, inventive hells he puts his characters mercilessly through. In interviews, he’s made much of the fact that Really Really is the sort of play that poses questions and doesn’t offer pat answers. Well and good—for playwrights who can come up with questions interesting enough to chew on for a while. Me, I left feeling distinctly underfed, and with the taste of bile in my throat.