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Judging by Really Really, 27-year-old playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo doesn’t hold a very favorable view of his generation. This drama depicting the aftermath of a sexual liaison at a raucous college party features wholly unpleasant characters doing and saying wholly unpleasant things. But there’s no denying the provocative impact of its portrait of what is derisively referred to as “Generation Me.”
The play, previously presented to great acclaim at Arlington, Virginia’s Signature Theatre, is currently receiving its New York premiere in a gripping MCC Theater production directed by David Cromer and featuring such hot young stars as Zosia Mamet (HBO’s Girls) and Matt Lauria (Friday Night Lights).
It begins with roommates Leigh (Mamet) and Grace (Lauren Culpepper) drunkenly stumbling into their apartment after what’s clearly been a hard night of revelry, with Grace still bleeding from her arm after falling on broken glass. The next morning, before heading off to officiate at the “Future Leaders of America” conference, Grace teases Leigh about having slept with the hunky Davis (Lauria) at the party.
“We all make mistakes,” she tells her friend. “You just made the hottest mistake on campus.”
Shortly afterwards, Leigh receives a visit from her solicitous boyfriend Jimmy (Evan Jonigkeit), the father of her unborn child who is unaware of her partying the night before.
The scene then shifts to the apartment of rugby teammates Davis and Cooper (David Hull), (Lauria), with the former nursing a vicious hangover. He has no memory of the events of the previous evening, but the news of his dalliance soon gets out. When Jimmy angrily confronts Leigh, she tells him that she was raped, with the ensuing scandal threatening to destroy Davis’ life.
Class issues soon rise to the fore, as it’s clear that scholarship student Leigh is in a far different economic stratum than Jimmy, who along with the rest of the young men clearly comes from money. The theme is further emphasized in scenes of Grace’s address at the conference, where she defends her generation’s selfishness by stating that they must “find any way” to achieve their goals.
The playwright displays an undeniable gift for narrative with his gripping “he said/she said” plotline that includes several dramatic, if overly contrived, twists upending the audience’s perceptions. But he lays his ideas too baldly, often spelling them out in a clunky manner rather than relying on our intuition. It’s a common mistake made by young playwrights, even of the highly promising variety. And the general repugnance of nearly every character, who also include the video-game addicted Johnson (Kobi Libii) and Leigh’s slutty sister Haley (Aleque Reid), begins to feel oppressive.
Nonetheless, Really Really has a crackling intensity that is perfectly realized in Cromer’s relentlessly forceful staging and the solid performances from the young ensemble. Mamet, so endearingly awkward as Shoshanna in Girls, here displays a galvanizing edginess, while Lauria uses his all-American good looks and wholesome demeanor to excellent effect. Equally superb are Hull as the boorish jock who seems intent on staying in college forever and Culpepper as the scary embodiment of Ayn Rand-style self-interest run amok.
Venue: Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York (runs through March 10)
Cast: Lauren Culpepper, David Hull, Even Jonigkeit, Matt Lauria, Kobi Libii, Zosia Mamet, Aleque Reid
Director: David Cromer
Playwright: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Set designer: David Korins
Costume designer: Sarah Laux
Lighting designer: David Weiner
Music and sound designer: Daniel Kluger
Presented by MCC Theater
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