Saturday, June 03, 2017

“Really, Really,” thought provoking, inciting, well-conceived at Beck

In this era where the nation’s leader has displayed chauvinistic attitudes, spoken disrespectfully about women, where sexting is part of the mode of operation of not only politicians but business people, and civil disregard is seemingly a daily incident on airlines and television news, it is not surprising, since art reflects the era from which it comes, that the play “Really Really,” is now gracing the stage at Beck Center.  It is a script and production that will insight much discussion.

To place the play’s spotlight in perspective, it might be helpful to recount the 2006 incident when the members of the Duke University lacrosse team were accused of raping a female student during a party.  Or, the 2012 Steubenville, Ohio situation when a high-school girl was sexually assaulted at a party by some of the school’s football players. 

Paul Downs Colaizzo’s play has similarities with these incidents as it concerns a party, a sexual incident, and an accusation of rape, but it also has a twist that the others didn’t have. 

We meet the remnants of a collegiate apartment party, the morning after.  Obviously, the well-heeled athletes and their guests consumed large amounts of alcohol.  Exact memories of what happened are sparse.  

Vague recollections evolve.  Davis (Daniel Scott Telford) seemingly got “lucky.”  Cooper (Chris Richards), the oldest of the teammates, one of the party’s hosts, who is a hanger-on delaying graduation until the “right” opportunity comes along, may have listened to the bedroom goings-on through a closed door.  Johnson (Jack Schmitt), who was present, wants to study for his up-coming exams and seems uncomfortable with the hijinks of the party. 

In another apartment, after some hesitation, Leigh (Molly Israel) shares with her roommate, Grace (Rachel Lee Kolis), that she was “raped” at the party.   Grace, a national leader of the Future Leaders of America, whose icons are political conservatives including Ted Cruz, Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly, supports Leigh’s reporting the incident to the University.

Jimmy (Randy Dierkes), Leigh’s wealthy boyfriend, who is on the same athletic team as the party holders, but was not at the get-together, finds out about the incident and goes to confront Davis.  Leigh’s sister, Hayley (Olivia Scicolone), arrives to supposedly support her sister.  

Questions abound, both about the story and the generation which these young people represent.

•Did Leigh try to fend off Davis?  •Did Cooper actually hear Leigh say, “No” and “Stop,” or is he an agreeable witness trying to insure a prize position in Jimmy’s dad’s business.  •Did Leigh set up the entire scenario?  •Was Leigh trying to get back at Davis for rejecting her when they were freshmen?  Was Jimmy her fallback guy to insure her dream of the perfect (wealthy) husband and perfect (financially abundant) life? Is the purpose of Haley’s “trailer-trash” character present to illustrate what Leigh is trying to escape from? 

•Do those of Generation-I (also referred to as GenZ, Gen Me, and Centennials), who are the first of citizenry born with the Internet and were taught to be individualistic, generally operate on the mind-set that it is their right and responsibility to impose their will and desires on others?  •Do Gen-I males believe that they can talk and bluster with no consequences?   •Do Gen-Iers, both male and female, think/feel it is their privilege to get what they want from life, no matter what they have to do to achieve their nirvana?  •Can there be more than one conclusion reached based on the same set of “facts” and observations?

“Really Really,” under the focused direction of Don Carrier, is fascinating.  The show is well-cast, nicely paced, gets the required laughs and gasps, and grabs and holds the audience’s attention.  There is no acting going on, just realistic portrayals of real people, speaking understandably in natural language.

Scenic designer Cameron Caley Michalak has effectively shoe-horned a multi-setting play into Beck’s compact Studio Theatre.  His use of a small turntable makes for efficient location changes.  Trad A Burns’ lighting design aids in setting the right moods. 

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: “Really Really” is “murder” mystery without a dead body, but still asks, “Who did it?”  The cast is well-selected and each person effectively textures their role.  The result is a production which sparks with intensity, sucking the viewer into an experience which is edgy, shocking and thought-provoking.  It’s a must see for anyone interested in thoughtful and well-conceived theater.

“Really, Really” runs at Beck Center for the Arts until July 2, 2017.  For tickets and information call 216-521-2540 or go on line to