Afterthoughts: Really Really by Paul Downs Colaizzo, produced by Interrobang Theatre Project

Theatre leaves you with images and thoughts to be perused again by way of conversation or private meditation. Great theatre adds in leftover feelings that electrify a connectivity to the work, humanity, and a fierce debate within one’s own head space. These feelings are usually described as cathartic or enjoyable. Really Really by Paul Downs Colaizzo and produced by Interrobang Theatre Project was one of the rare productions that throws those feelings into chaos. By the end of the production, one feels betrayed, used, tormented, and equally amazed by the onstage tightrope act. This is a play that needs to be produced on universities across the country to engage in dialogue about the state of sexual assault, obtuseness, and fragility on American campuses.

That was some aloof thoughts about the feelings evoked from the production, now for how it elicited those feelings. What worked? A stellar cast of beautiful and wonderfully talented actors who perpetuated the Chicago ideal that ensemble trumps all. There is no black and white character in this play, everyone exists in a dirty gray. This gray overshadows the characters so that by the end one is questioning every decision made onstage and therefore concluding over and over again where one personally falls on the issue. This cast was maneuvered by superb directing and a smart script that avoided labeling its characters as anything other complex, contradictory, and human.

The final image of the play is a cacophony of visceral theatre. I sat in a foggy state as the play ended. This fogginess was not from lack of understanding but from being astounded that a production ventured into a darkness. The production climaxed, withdrew, and then tossed the audience aside. This is the theatrical language of this production and it evokes a queasy feeling of self-edit during discussion.  

The set was a box. But it was the kind of boxed set that makes designers and directors want to chase a boxed set. This unit set was shared as two separate, believable college apartments. The design captured the uniformity the made-for-students apartment communities existing on the peripheral of universities. Every aspect of this design meshed together.

This script denies a safe side of the argument to fall into. It forces you to confront issues that are not simply she said/he said. This rewards the audience at the end with a night of theatre to be remembered months and years later.

The one small issue I had was the seemingly superfluous scenes in which Haley is direct addressing the audience as the Future Leaders of America. She does so in a less prepared state each time, as the world of the play beings to break down, and the scenes serve as a segue between the apartment scenes. During the production this stood out; however, this jarring effect was later revisited during the brilliant ending. I wonder if these scenes are a necessary hurdle to achieve the dénouement, or if they could be incorporated more into the private world of the play.

I am beyond excited to see what Interrobang Theatre Project produces next. This is a company that is not fretting from its ambitious tagline: Changing Our World One Play at a Time.

Go see their next production. Really.