Jack Quinn

Victor Gluck

Chip Deffaa

Really Really
By: Victor Gluck
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Lauren Culpepper and Zosia Mamet in a scene from Really Really
(Photo credit: Janna Giacoppa)

They have been called “Millennials,” the generation that was born before the year 2000, and they live their lives through technology and the social media. For them sex is as casual as a handshake - except when they feel betrayed. This is the milieu of Paul Downs Colaizzo‘s Really Really, a powerful but vicious play which has received a sensational production by David Cromer in its New York premiere. The hugely talented and attractive young cast is led by Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna Shapiro on HBO’s Girls and Joyce Ramsey on AMC’s Mad Men) and Matt Lauria (Luke Cafferty on NBC’s Friday Night Lights and Ryan York on NBC’s Parenthood).

Roommates Leigh (played by Mamet) and Grace (Lauren Culpeper) return home from a college party in the wee hours of the morning. Grace’s arm is bleeding but she is too wasted to be in pain. Leigh becomes and more annoyed that she has not received a voice message she is obviously expecting. We next see the apartment of the college boys who have given the party. We meet Cooper (David Hull) who does no work for his classes and plans to make a career of being a student, his friend Johnson (Kobi Libii) who has his life planned out and is an excellent student, and golden boy/athlete Davis (Lauria) who needs to study for his finals but is prevented by his hangover and the boys’ gossiping.

David Hull and Matt Lauria in as scene from Really Really
(Photo credit: Janna Giacoppa)

The boys gossip about the night before. All agree that while Leigh’s boyfriend was out of town, she and Davis went into his bedroom and had what sounded like noisy sex behind a locked door. Next it transpires that Leigh is saying she was date raped by Davis and that she has miscarried the child she had conceived with her boyfriend Jimmy. Davis cannot remember anything that happened that at he party, so that it is simply a matter of whether Leigh is telling the truth. However, neither Leigh’s roommate Grace nor her sister Haley (Aleque Reid), who turns up serendipitously to see what’s in it for her, believe her. Is she lying? Is she telling part of the truth? Did it all happen the way she says? Leigh and Haley, it transpires, were brought up in a dirt poor family where they often didn’t have enough to eat. Extremely wealthy Davis and Jimmy might just be their lifetime meal tickets. The play alternates between the girls’ apartment and the boys’ apartment in a new variation on “he said, she said.”

While this riveting and potent story is being worked out, Grace attends the Future Leaders of America Conference as is elected president. In a dramaturgical technique that was a potential risk, the playwright has her lecture the assembled “audience” as to their goals and direction. Naming them members of the “Me Generation,” she tells them and us that it is no longer the land of opportunity, but the land of strategy. The secret weapon is defiance, denial and greed. In order not to be a victim, one must find “any way to get what one wants. As Colaizzo’s play builds to its shocking denouement, we see the working out of this philosophy.

Zosia Mamet and Evan Jonigkeit in a scene from Really Really
(Photo credit: Janna Giacoppa)

Not only has Cromer directed with an eye and ear to verisimilitude, his designer David Korins has designed a set which is turned 90 degrees for each successive scene. We visually see the world of these students going round and round as it spins out of control. It is hard to describe the acting as all of these attractive performers have made their characters so real – as well as distasteful – that they might be playing themselves, assuming that they were as egotistical and self-centered as this bunch. Playing a young woman who is similar to her character on Girls, Mamet (the gifted daughter of playwright David Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse) shows us different facets of Leigh’s personality each time we see her, very much like peeling an onion to reveal different layers that were there all the time. As her roommate with her own agenda and ethics, Culpepper shows an opposing kind of naked ambition.

Lauria’s Davis is a careless person who has always had his parents’ money and fame to cushion him in the past. We hear about his violent, uncontrollable temper and get to know of two examples of this. Hull makes Cooper a hanger-on who, after stirring the pot, hopes to dissociate himself from the events that occurred under his watch. Libii’s Johnson is a real student who wants to have it both ways, enjoy the fruits of dissipation but build his career the old-fashioned way. As Leigh’s rich boyfriend Jimmy, Evan Jonigkeit (who made an acclaimed Broadway debut in 2011’s High) suggests that he may be a total hypocrite and not worth Leigh’s time, though she has set her cap for him. As the most vicious of the bunch, Reid makes Haley’s mercenary nature both palpable and tangible.

Colaizzo obviously does not like many of the members of his generation. But like the characters in the French classic, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which tells a similar story, they may be venomous and cruel, but there are such people in the world, and one must learn to deal with them successfully. With a sensational cast and a powerhouse script, Cromer’s engrossing production suggests that Generation Y is filled with these types. Otherwise, why give the play a title that insists its events are really true?

Really Really (through March 24, 2013)
MCC Theater at Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.mcctheater.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission

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