A performance review by Nick Pearce
At first, I believed this play was solely about a sexual assault. As I walked into the theatre, I was handed a pamphlet entitled “10 Ways Young Men Can Prevent Sexual Violence” along with my program. But the story presented by the University of Minnesota, Moorhead’s production of Paul Downs Collaizzo’s Really Really (At Normandale’s Premanand Theatre at 10 AM and 2 PM on Wednesday, January 20th) rapidly became more complicated. Really, really, complicated.
As what happens with students Davis and Leigh becomes known, more and more twists and turns come out to the story, slowly teased out between scenes, leaving viewers nearly baffled with what really happened in the story until the very last minute (and for some, not even then; I heard a few arguments over what really happened between characters later on in my hotel). And while this narrative emerges, the events force not only uncomfortable moments, but uncomfortable debates that rage in the head, regarding accusations of love, sex, belief, family, and friendship. Despite its shortcomings, Really Really proved to be a work that not only entertains, but challenges pre-conceived notions and values, and forces involved thought.
The show as an amalgam in several ways. First, the entire set was stationary, revolving mostly around the living rooms of the two students involved in the assault case; the rooms were set side by side, splitting a couch, counter, and coffee table down the middle. The mood of the script also swung back and forth; rife with jokes, moments, and one liners that caused gales of laughter, there was also a bevy of serious moments where you could hear in pin drop in a room of two hundred people. This array of contrasts was most well represented between two of the main characters: Leigh, the accuser (played in an incredibly enigmatic performance by Kali Jo Klimek), and the accused’s roommate Cooper, a self-indulgent party boy torn between a life of leisure and duty to a friend. While Klimek held an admirable restraint throughout the performance and its multiple plot twists (M. Night Shyamalan movies like The Sixth Sense seem comfortingly predictable after this show), Cooper (played in a surprisingly deep role by Collin Engler) was loud, brash, funny, and genuine. Of all the self-obsessed and shallow characters in this show, Engler managed somehow to be both the most self-centered and the most caring.
The main issue I believed that the show faced was its script. The dialogue felt stale at times, and conversation sometimes seemed like characters were just throwing words at people who weren’t listening, waiting only for their turn to throw out their lexical choice. Whether an intentional choice or not, this resonated with me, and followed the path that characters took to be self-absorbed. This was brought to a head by the end of the show, where I was convinced that the central tenet and theme of this production was not the sexual assault, but the increasingly self-absorbed generation of younger millennials. A character named Grace (Erika Rosenkranz), the president of the Future Leaders of America, says as much; terming her (and, since she’s a college student, our) age group “The Me Generation”, and, while this doesn’t sound flattering, is accurate. The characters reminded me of a crew for a sinking boat. Rather than paddle together and bail out water to stay afloat, all of them jumped ship. Despite the script making her speeches sound stale and slightly preachy, they were brought off the page by Rosenkranz with a comical and eerily on-point approach.
For better or worse, our generation is self-obsessed. We have access to a range of social media platforms that is unheard of in our parent’s time. We are the first generation to name pictures of ourselves (ask Grandma if she took selfies back in the day). We can retweet easier than we relate. And that has changed us. Even while contemplating the ideals of this newly named generation, I can see that it’s true. And, perhaps most disturbingly of all, I’d never considered it before. Whether that stems from a lack of my understanding, a surplus of confidence, or a damning confirmation of my place in this generation, remains to be seen. Rest assured, upon viewing this, you will be engrossed, and you will be challenged. Really really.
Really Really by Paul Downs Colaizzo
Presented by Minnesota State University Moorhead Theatre
Director: Craig A. Ellingson
Lighting designer: Laura Berger
Technical Director: James Stenger
Assistant Director: Samantha Lorenz
Stage Manager: Michelle Soto
Costume Designer: Katie Van Haren
Scenic Designer: Ricky Greenwell
Assistant Stage Managers: Allie Bell, Wyatt Sander
Prop Master: Carina Du Marce
Master Electrician: Brodigan Morton
Light Board Operator: Annie Peck
Sound Board Operator: Ben Stoddard
Wardrobe: Nate Pace
Dramaturg: Caleb Reich