Theater’s deep disgust for (and fear of) “the Millennials” reaches a high-water mark with Really Really, MCC’s latest attempt to comprehend the callow Jugend running amok in our cities, bars, and coffee shops. But unlike last year’s The Submission, this affidavit is filed from within the accused demographic: Written by 27-year-old Paul Downs Colaizzo from a first draft he completed at 21, Really Really is a poker-faced twist on the old he said-she said college potboiler.
It stars Zosia Mamet (who plays innocent Shoshanna on Girls) as Leigh, a less-than-innocent college senior of modest means, who ends up in a compromising situation with a rich, popular, possibly troubled boy (Matt Lauria) and tries to leverage scandal into advancement. Mamet’s already a generational avatar in her own right, thanks to America’s favorite schadenshow (which fascinates the former Matlock audience), and Colaizzo would very much like to be one, too. He may yet get his wish. Probably not on the strength of this smug, clumsy, dyspeptic opening salvo, but — with his frighteningly palpable ambition, vivid, vicious voice, and stiletto instinct for the epigram — definitely someday. Soon, perhaps very soon, he’ll grow into the sort of playwright who understands he probably shouldn’t conclude a pessimistic dorm-room melodrama called Really Really with a character staring down the audience and saying, “Really.” J’accuse!
I mean, hell, this is Colaizzo’s first play to be produced in New York — and it shows, despite the delicate ministrations of master director David Cromer (Tribes, Our Town) and a sleek, spare stage design overseen by Cromer and the scenic visionary David Korins. (Colaizzo really, really hit the tyro-playwright jackpot with this team.) The young cast is excellent, across the board, and Mamet, especially, is fascinating: From the moment she enters in Colaizzo’s superbly wordless opening scene — a dumbshow of two young girls, one bleeding, entering their apartment drunk, late at night, teetering on “slutty heels,” all beautifully, unsettlingly orchestrated by Cromer — she finds ways to invite us into the interior of a cipher.
Leigh is the show’s central mystery and biggest problem: A decade or two ago, she’d have been some sort of postfeminist, counterrevolutionary construct, intended only to provoke. Today, she’s still provocative, still a “monster,” but then she lives in a world peopled only with monsters, a world where monster meets monster and, in flagrant violation of Tennessee Williams’s axiom, neither gives way. (Mamet’s most formidable scene partner isn’t one of her volatile lovers — the men of Really Really are all just a bit too behind the ball to be of much interest — but her girl scout of a roommate, Grace, played by the cunningly funny Lauren Culpepper.)
Colaizzo’s thunderous pontifications on the shortcomings of his Facebook-weaned peers are brutal but also familiar and jejune: Why, these kids are nothing but a bunch of ghoulishly entitled, comically solipsistic, sexually exhibitionistic yet emotionally catatonic automatons, outwardly flip but utterly joyless in their grinding pursuit of self-interest! Y’don’t say? But beyond the teething-ring nihilism, the sexual deathmatch, the teeth-baring betrayals that fail to shock after they collapse into heaps of lumpen misanthropy, the play does possess wit and nerve. Right now, I’m more impressed by the phenomenology of Colaizzo — how a well-connected newcomer has achieved what he’s achieved — than I am by the work itself. But I suspect that will soon change. Really.