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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 5:57 pm

Review: 'Really Really' is clever look at GenMe

By JENNIFER FARRARAssociated Press

Let's just hope that all the members of so-called Generation Me are not as selfish, opportunistic and venal as some of the characters in Paul Downs Colaizzo's deeply cynical play, "Really Really."

The disturbing drama opened Tuesday night, presented off-Broadway by MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. David Cromer's taut direction creates suspense and ambivalence, as the initially appealing characters gradually reveal how far they might go to protect themselves or get what they want.

As Colaizzo's clever, deliberately ambiguous plot twists and turns, facts may become lies and vice versa. His picture of a group of college-age young people trying to make their way in this world any way they can is well-written and acted, presenting a sardonic view of people whose individual code of conduct seems nebulous at best.

Zosia Mamet makes an impressive stage debut with her sensitive, deliberately ambiguous portrayal of an under-privileged student, Leigh. While it seems unclear what actually happened between Leigh and the handsome, popular Davis (Matt Lauria) behind closed doors at a drunken party, the aftermath upends their lives and those of their friends.

Leigh presents herself as the innocent victim of rape resulting in a miscarriage, while Davis can't remember anything at all. Lauria's portrayal of an apparently nice guy watching his whole life and future evaporate before his eyes is affecting. Mamet subtly shifts gears as Leigh, who seems controlled and enigmatic, may be using the situation to her own advantage. Is she as haunted-looking and fragile as she appears, or is she shrewdly applying her brutally-obtained life-skills to throw Davis under the bus?

Lauren Culpepper is perky and comical as Leigh's roommate, Grace. With delicate irony, Culpepper presents a chilling manifesto for GenMe at a Future Leaders of America convention. In a speech to an audience of her ambitious peers, Grace carefully explains the "upside" to their "healthy selfishness," saying their "secret weapon" is "composed of defiance and denial and greed." For them, the only question that should matter in any situation is, "What can I do to get what I want?"

The shifting positions taken by Davis' so-called friends are surprisingly disloyal, in particular his entitled, manipulative roommate Cooper (David Hull, boyish yet cagey). Once university authorities become involved, self-preservation kicks in big time for Cooper and their studious rugby teammate Johnson (a nicely geeky Kobi Libii).

Evan Jonigkeit rings true with his portrayal of Jimmy, Leigh's gullible but somewhat controlling boyfriend. The arrival in Act 2 of Leigh's brash, outspoken sister, Haley (a funny, loose-cannon performance by Aleque Reid) reveals some of Leigh's unpleasant history and raises even more doubt about her honesty and credibility.

As presented here by Colaizzo, concern for others doesn't exist for GenMe. They won't just throw you under the bus; they might back it up over you again for good measure.