Company: Interrobang Theatre Project
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Ave.)
Die Roll: 8
I’m ignoring all the impulses I have to dissect a show like REALLY, REALLY into easily digestible bits. There’s enough well-placed camouflage to trick you into thinking you’re about to set foot into a frivolous collegiate social sphere, and the deepest concerns of these co-eds is sussing out who made the biggest, drunkest fool of themselves and who hooked up with the sketchiest character. But, Animal House, this is not (though I’m pretty sure I saw Belushi tacked to the Greek house walls, staring down like a patron saint).
This production has a lot more to say, and embraces complication in a way that makes you see these students follow their hastiest impulses, and maybe feel a little remorseful of how loud you guffawed at a steady stream of frat-boy rough housing. There’s not a soul onstage without something to prove, a past to escape, or a tenuous future they cling to for dear life.
In keeping with Interrobang Theatre’s focus on contemporary theater, Paul Downs Colaizzo’s “REALLY, REALLY” drops us smack dab into a communal hangover courtesy of the wildest party on campus. Roommates Davis (Ben TeBockHorst), Johnson (Maurice Demus) and Cooper (Michael Holding) confirm that Davis hooked up with Leigh (Kristen Magee) in a drunken haze neither can quite remember. The problem? Leigh has been seeing their teammate and trust-fund baby, Jimmy (Tommy Beardmore), and word is all over campus already. Leigh, has worked hard to free herself from a life of poverty & abuse, and has already moved mountains to keep herself in Jimmy’s wealthy- I mean, loving arms. Rape accusations come into the fray, and the lines of truth and convenience are blurred beyond recognition. It hardly matters what really happened, the future belongs to the savvy individual who can rebound with the most winning public face.
I’ll avoid spilling any more details, and just encourage you to see this simultaneously fantastic and disturbing production. James Yost and his directing team deliver one of the most frightfully intense finales I’ve ever seen on a Chicago stage.
“REALLY, REALLY” punches the wind out of the myth of a carefree and well-adjusted college student. No one escapes this play without being morally compromised and nowhere is it more starkly laid out than in keynote addresses delivered by Leigh’s roommate Grace (Amanda Lipinski) to a conference of student leaders. Meant to be rousing and inspirational, she calls out her fellows as persistent, unrelenting and far too invested in themselves to take no for an answer. Congratulations, class of 2015; please excuse me while I shower off this grime.
TEN WORD SUMMARY: I’m with Liz Lemon; always be mistrustful of today’s youths.
DICE RATING: d10- “Worth Going To”