It was my first visit to Signature Theatre this past Sunday to catch Really Really, written by emerging playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo. It had it’s world premiere at Signature on Jan 31st, a surprisingly swanky complex tucked away in a Shirlington shopping plaza, surrounded by some VA editions of DC favs like Cakelove and Busboys & Poets, plus the best brunch in town at the Carlyle. A large staircase lit with slowly color fading LEDs won me over from the start. We entered one of two theaters, a relatively intimate venue with a massively wide stage, meaning there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
So far so good. The play takes place during the aftermath of a cheap beer fueled college house party at some unnamed elite university. Plot points will be kept at a minimum as the work relies heavily on twists and deceptions. The aforementioned expansive stage is split in two, with the girls home on one side and the Rugby jocks on the other. There are some really nice set design touches like interlocking floorboards at the seam, a working mounted flatscreen TV, a Charlie Sheen winning sticker on the fridge, and apparently, real edible pancakes.
Despite the Asian horror movie style image on the program and the short blurb I skimmed with words like “provocative”, the beginning scenes played like the worst moments of an early Todd Phillips comedy. As the awkwardly forced profanity, generic frat boy banter, and tired voicemail gags washed over me, I began to fear I was in for an excruciating couple hours. As the story unfolded, it became clear that these characters are in fact the butt of a visceral critique on the millennial generation, so thinking back I’m still not sure how those early scenes were supposed to be taken. Many in the audience with a boring sense of humor found it uproarious, but maybe it was actually some meta commentary on frat cliches and homophobia? No, it was too subtle for that, I think it was just sucky.
To make matters even more confusing, there is some genuine humor later on, with the clever comic timing of Kim Rosen as an older sister coming to visit, like when she secretly drops trough and rubs her ass on a decorative throw pillow from Crate & Barrel. Or the meta moments when Lauren Culpepper pseudo-addresses the audience as a host of some terrible Young Leaders of America Club or whatever.
As the first act began to rap up though, both the writing and the performances made a miraculous recovery, and all through the second act the dramatic bits of Really Really really really shined. And by shined, I mean punched you in the gut. Colaizzo goes from Todd Phillips to Todd Solondz in the blink of an eye. When things start to get edgy, and I mean really really edgy, like woah edgy, the cast nails it. It’s like a Breaking Bad episode, except without the rooting for the anti-hero part. At least that’s how I took it. Colaizzo wisely leaves some motives vague and accusations suspect when the curtain drops, lending to debates the next day over that french toast at the Carlyle.
Despite the comic inconsistency, Really Really is a highly entertaining night out, and a ballsy choice for Signature. If my experience was any indication, I think I may have been missing out on something special going on in Arlington for the past few years.
January 31, 2012 – March 25, 2012
20 seats for $20 – special ticket offer for the 30 or under crowd – Use code GENME.
Subject to availability. Must show proof of ID at the Box Office when picking up tickets.
4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, Virginia 22206
Box Office 703-820-9771
A play by Paul Downs Colaizzo
Directed by Matthew Gardiner
Scenic Design Misha Kachman
Costume Design Kathleen Geldard
Lighting Design Colin K. Bills
Sound Design Matt Rowe
Fight Director Casey Kaleba
New York Casting Stuart Howard & Paul Hardt
Production Stage Manager Julie Meyer
Photos by Scott Suchman