It's the Survival of the Fittest on Campus in 'Really Really' at the Beck Center

Really Really

Through July 2 at the Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood


There are plenty of reasons to dislike and distrust college kids. For one thing, they're young. For another thing — well, never mind, that's enough. But the young people in Really Really by Paul Downs Colaizzo will really, really make you hate them more than you already do.

Written when the playwright was in his 20s himself, the script is a nasty portrait of me-firsters who are out to survive and succeed at any cost. After one character said, "We are your future," at a point in the first act, a member of the audience involuntarily responded, "God help us."

It appears god will have his hands full with scholars such as these. Two of them, Leigh and Grace, make their entrance stumbling through the door of their college home, drunk out of their minds and trying to wrestle their shoes off so they can throw up, pass out, or both. This wordless scene, deftly choreographed by director Donald Carrier, captures both the tenuous camaraderie and the isolation of these characters, which will be explored in subsequent scenes.

In another apartment, three male students — Cooper, Davis and Johnson — are involved in dick-measuring banter as they try to top each other with their macho put-downs and profanities. And Colaizzo is adept at fashioning these rapid-fire strafing bouts of words as the guys strut and pose.

But soon, we learn about the problem that is simmering underneath all the drinking and potty humor: Leigh, who is already pregnant with her boyfriend Jimmy, has had sex with Jimmy's pal Davis at an out-of-control party. And it's not clear if that sex was consensual or not, especially to the participants who were too zonked to make that determination.

It's a tiny whirlwind of chaos and, as we are learning from our country's Frat-Boy-in-Chief, chaos is great because it offers an opportunity to get the edge on someone else —morality or common sense be damned. Indeed, this play seems to echo many of the sentiments of our current administration, with its emphasis on "America (or Me) First."

This approach is spelled out by Grace who we see leading a campus group called The Future Leaders of America. With photos of Ronald Reagan, Ted Cruz and Phyllis Schlafly adorning the wall behind her, Grace spells out (a bit too obviously) the mantra of these young people: Find any way to get what you want, and make your own way in this crazy world.

In a separate scene, the beer-swilling Cooper (a nicely mussy and intermittently belching Chris Richards) says essentially the same thing, mocking textbook studies in favor of learning how to claw up the ladder of success.

Even though the playwright occasionally lapses into overly simplistic dialogue, with the uptight Johnson (Jack Schmitt) noting, "I'm just trying to be the man I want to be," the mystery at the core of the plot remains elusive and tantalizing.

And the actors deliver the goods, for the most part. Molly Israel plays Leigh and she is fittingly hard to pin down. Leigh has a veneer of sophistication, when she's not blasted, which belies her background as a poor kid who grew up scrounging for meals. We learn more about this when her trailer trash sister Hayley (brassy Olivia Scicolone) shows up, looking to see how she can leverage Leigh's status as a college student into some advantage for herself.

As Jimmy, Randy Dierkes swerves from righteous anger to sympathy as he tries to figure out if Leigh cheated on him or was the victim of a sexual assault. And Daniel Scott Telford negotiates a similarly complex path as Davis, unable to reconstruct what happened that fateful night while still being drawn to Leigh.

As Grace, Rachel Lee Kolis has the smooth veneer of a young Republican down pat, until Grace loses her speech notes and has to flounder through a presentation by butchering a convoluted metaphor involving balloons and crock pots. It shows that Grace's understanding is a mile wide and an inch deep, proving that she could probably take over Sean Spicer's job in a nanosecond.

The turntable set designed by Cameron Caley Michalak works smoothly to shift from scene to scene. But the rooms of the students seem a bit barren and lacking in personality, which is unfortunate since that kind of set dressing could expand on the characterizations. And that would help since, apart from some passing references to Leigh and Hayley's family, we get precious little information about who these surprisingly venal folks really are.

Ultimately, there are no easy answers provided in this piece, which is so often the case in incidents where allegations of rape are involved. And while the final pas de deux between Davis and Leigh brings some clarity to who they are, we are left with a scuzzy panorama of characters that actually will become our "future leaders." God help us, indeed.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
Scroll to read more Arts Stories & Interviews articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.