BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's REALLY REALLY is Intense and Phenomenal
Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo made a name for himself during New York City's 2012-13 season when the MCC presented his play REALLY REALLY. When it premiered in 2012 at The Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virigina, it garnered a ton of buzz, selling out the entire run. In New York, the run was extended twice and also sold out the entire run. Now, Black Lab Theatre is producing an exhilaratingly intense production of the play for Houston audiences to enjoy.
To describe the show and not spoil anything is a tricky endeavor, but bear with me and know that Black Lab Theatre's REALLY REALLY is must see drama at its finest. The play opens with two young girls drunkenly stumbling into their apartment. Grace briefly leaves the stage and returns with a blood-covered hand before a quick blackout. This puzzling image kicks off a show that asks a lot of questions and leaves many satisfyingly unanswered for the audience. As the scenes progress, we learn that Leigh, Grace's roommate, is engaged to Christian therapy attending Jimmy, who's father is on the board for the prestigious school they attend. However, Grace had sex with Davis, a rugby-playing boy she's had a crush on for the past four years. To further complicate matters, Grace doesn't come from the same socio-economic background as her peers and is damaged in various other ways. In light of jimmy discovering her seeming infidelity, she accuses Davis of raping her, but finds that being the victim in this scandal is just as ruinous for her as it if for Davis.
With REALLY REALLY, Paul Downs Colaizzo holds a well-polished mirror up to the youth of America and exposes the positives and negatives of the inherent self-entitlement of Generation Me. This integral aspect is meticulously and impressively brought to life by Jordan Jaffe's pristine direction of the play. Every role in the piece is a weighty indictment of the problems those of us born from 1970-1999 face and how we deal with them. Cleverly, Paul Downs Colaizzo has Grace assert that as a generation we find solutions, and that is what each and every character in the show does from beginning to end. Yet, those solutions often come with an expense that is not given consideration as long as it lets us off the hook.
Originated in New York by Zosia Mamet, Teresa Zimmermann as Leigh expertly crafts a character that you'll be gladly discussing for days to come. Paul Downs Colaizzo purposefully makes her motivations muddy and unclear, allowing each and every member of the audience to generate their own ideas about why she would behave the way she does. Whether it is the fulfillment of a nasty grudge, a desire to tell the truth, or an opportunity to manipulate others to ensure she gets what she wants, Teresa Zimmermann's Leigh fascinates the audience and makes us viscerally react to the situations she casts herself and her peers into. Also, as things implode and explode all around her, Teresa Zimmermann showcases how smart Leigh truly is, as she handles every twist in the story with the precision of someone who has tread a path like this one before.
Davis, as played by Scott Gibbs, cracks and breaks before the eyes of the audience. Unfortunately, Davis is more-or-less defenseless in the scenario because of his white male privilege working against him in cases like this and the fact that he was simply too drunk to remember anything that happened at the party. Naturally, the accusations and allegations take their toll on him. Fissuring and falling apart, Scott Gibbs capably and believably creates a character that is bent on self-preservation, even if it means admitting to rape.
The ensemble supporting the leads is nothing short of astonishing in their performances. Rachel Rubin's Grace is delightfully self-absorbed. She keeps her center by controlling as many aspects of her life and those around her as possible. Her monologues, powerfully addressed to the audience as if we were delegates at the conference she attends, perfectly allows Paul Downs Colaizzo to speak directly to us and confront us. Blake Weir's Cooper is a delightful blend of Steve Stifler and Van Wilder. With a party-boy outlook on life, Cooper rolls with the punches and also fights for the preservation of the lifestyle he has chosen for himself. Chelsea Ryan McCurdy plays Haley, Grace's sister, to perfection. She creates a man-eater of a woman who is looking for the next opportunity to boost her self up the socio-economic ladder. As Jimmy, James Monaghan brings to life a portrait of disbelief, jealousy, anger, and a broken heart. As Johnson, Domonique Champion convincingly brings to life a character who micromanages every aspect of his own life to ensure his ability to obtain the best life he possibly can for himself.
Set Design by Claire "Jac" Jones places a majority of the action in two different residences. From the point of view of the audience, the left side of the stage is the house that members of rugby team share. With its blue walls and party paraphernalia strewn about, the audience instantly gets the idea of fraternity, masculinity, and fun above all else. The opposite side of the stage is a daintily decorated apartment with trappings of the feminine.
Shannon Nicole Hill's Fight Choreography is a key element of the production and looks unrehearsed in the most natural way possible. As the violence erupts on the stage, every action is breathtakingly believable and leaves the audience riveted and stunned.
As REALLY REALLY unfolds and peels back its layers before the audience, there is no denying its power and majesty. The play forcibly pulls audiences in and tightly holds us by the throat. We don't dare to look away, and we often forget to breathe. During every blackout there are hushed whispers of "wow" or "oh my God." A patron to my left was so moved by the show she uttered "what a c**t" at one moment, and I couldn't help but feel that my own thoughts had escaped her lips. In his director's note, Jordan Jaffe says "REALLY REALLY is one of the most important, provocative dramas that has been written about millennials by a millennial," and I can't help but agree. Run, don't walk, to see this phenomenal play.
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 48 minutes with one intermission.
REALLY REALLY, produced by Black Lab Theatre, runs at the Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation Boulevard, Houston 77011 now through May 3, 2014. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Monday, April 21 at 8:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.blacklabtheatre.com or call (713) 515-4028.
Photos by Pin Lim. Courtesy of Black Lab Theatre.
L to R: Blake Weir, Domonique Champion & Scott Gibbs.
Teresa Zimmermann & Rachel Rubin.
L to R: Teresa Zimmermann, Rachel Rubin & James Monaghan.
James Monaghan & Teresa Zimmermann.
Blake Weir & Scott Gibbs.
Chelsea Ryan McCurdy & Blake Weir.
Teresa Zimmermann & Scott Gibbs.