A performance review
By Emily Schoenbeck
There’s a fine line between exploration and exploitation. Minnesota State University Moorhead’s production of Really Really is walking that line. The play, which covers the aftermath of a party and supposed sexual assault, doesn’t pull any punches in its content and staging, and the actors take full advantage of their blocking. But in a play covering sexual assault, you can’t help but feel there’s more being taken advantage of.
Really Really by Paul Downs Colaizzo addresses sexual assault in the light of “Generation Me”, millennials known for getting what they want regardless of the consequences. It’s an interesting angle, and sexual assault is definitely a timely topic. The script’s handling of it, however, is uneven.
The stage split down the middle into two apartments, the assailant’s and the accuser’s, was set to tell the story from both characters point of view, and the first half of the play unfolds largely as you would expect. Both characters piecing together what happened and what, in light of the assault, they’re going to do about it. There’s real emotion here. The characters are people you’ve met; they’re your roommates and friends. In fact, the first act could function largely as its own one act, albeit one with an ambiguous ending.
The second half, however, becomes a little dicey. The plot twists with every scene, and the characters you had figured out start taking on shades of grey. On one hand, I enjoyed the unease, the feeling that all bets were off for how the play would end. On the other hand, emotional connections need firm ground to grow, and I can’t connect with characters I don’t know. In the second act, the play shifted into a story driven by rollercoaster plot and sudden bursts of high emotion, instead of deeper emotional resonance.
But I like weird plays (don’t we all?), and what this play uniquely has to offer comes in its second act. Sexual assault makes for murky waters. It’s a crime riddled with “he said’s” and “she said’s”, and seeing people in your community as assailants and victims can be hard. People want an explanation or a story that can make the horror of rape go away. Accusations from the first act start to land in the second, and the characters become desperate people. Something terrible has happened, and every character wants to make others, and themselves, believe it’s not their fault. The play handles well the high emotions that must follow in the wake of sex crimes.
Sexual assault is too prevalent in our culture to be ignored. The take-away from this play isn’t whose right and whose wrong, but that something has gone wrong in our communities, especially on college campuses. Really Really offers a place to start the conversation about sexual assault. Its far from a perfect beginning, but the conversation is more than worth the price of admission.
Credits Written by Paul Downs Colaizzo
Directed by Craig A. Ellingson
Cast Kali Jo Klimek, Erika Rosenkranz, Emily Carlson, Chris Knutson, Collin Engler, Jack Bonko, and Chris Pitner
Designers & Crew
Technical Director- James Stenger
Assistant Director- Samantha Lorenz
Lighting Designer- Laura Berger
Costume Designer- Katie Van Haren
Scenic Designer- Ricky Greenwell
Stage Manager- Michelle Soto
Assistant Stage Manager- Allie Beil, Wyatt Sander