By Daniel Skora
Before the stage lights brighten, you get a flavor for what actually took place the night before the play actually begins. Shadowy figures enter the darkened stage, which was initially the simple but spotless living area of an apartment. The shadowy figures proceed to trash the set with empty beer cans, plastic Solo cups, and several pieces of upturned furniture. When the stage lights go back on, you realize the mood has been set for the morning after what was a college drinking party the night before. Three young males are going through the business of cleaning up after their night of revelry, along the way reliving the party with as much male bravado as they can squeeze between the vulgarities that spew from their mouths. Quite without knowing it, when it comes out that one of their number has finally gotten laid, they have stumbled upon the seminal event that drives this sometimes amusing but mostly disturbing play about sexual ethics, interpersonal relationships, and the selfishness that’s behind the credo of the “Me Generation”.
“Really Really”, the current presentation of Planet Ant Theatre, is a tense, emotional drama that deals with a host of complexities. Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo has infused his play with enough issues to keep analysts busy for years and audience members talking well past the drive home. But don’t let the thought of a play filled with heady issues keep you from seeing this play; it’s two hours of riveting, emotionally draining theatre with an intelligent script played by a talented and enthused cast.
Cooper (Brenton Herwat) is a talker, the party-giver who’s probably not even taking any classes at this Ivy League school. His friend Johnson (Andy Reid) downplays his involvement with the others and would rather play video games than engage in the group’s shenanigans. Davis (Michael Lopetrone) is the studious preppy type who experiences his first sexual encounter during the party, or so he’s trying desperately to recall. Jimmy (Jeffrey James Smyk) has his roots in Christian ideals and comes with a pedigree of privilege. Even though he was not present at the party, Jimmy has a stake in its outcome because his girlfriend Leigh was there.
Leigh (Meredith Deighton) is the character upon which the play pivots and the source of the greater part of its drama. Her relationship with Jimmy has put her in a delicate condition even while she continues to harbor a secret hatred for one of the male students who misused her friend Natalie. We get to know more about Leigh from the second act appearance of her trashy sister Haley (Lisa Melinn), a klepto who fills in important details about their mutual childhoods. Leigh shares her apartment with another female, Grace (Kaitlyn Valor Bourque), who is the president of a group called the Future Leaders of America and provides a traditional contrast to Leigh’s more permissive behavior.
“Really Really” plays like a psychological mystery thriller. Colaizzo’s script is heavy on ambiguity and it’s impossible to know where the next plot twist will lead. To disclose any more of the storyline would destroy much of the play’s enjoyment, but be advised: this is one grabber of a play. Director Brandy Joe Plambeck and Planet Ant have put together a production that’s energetic, spellbinding, and nicely focused. The setting for the play includes the apartment of the male characters where the party took place, as well as the one shared by the two females, Leigh and Grace. Set changes between the two happen frequently and with a considerable amount of sound and fury. Darren Shelton’s set design allows for the same furniture to be used for both apartments, rearranged into their different configurations as necessary. This makes for a raucous silhouette of movement between actors and furniture, creating a kind of unique theatrical dance. Costumes for the production are by Vince Kelley, lighting by the director, Mr. Plambeck.
In the end, the play’s accusatory fingers point not at the ramifications of sexual misdeeds, but rather at the inability of the “Me Generation” to include in their concerns the needs of others. If you prefer your theatre to come packaged with a cleanly, well defined ending, be advised that “Really Really” is not one of those. But even though the play’s final destination may prove to be an ambiguous one, the trip in getting there is surprisingly breathtaking.
“Really Really” has mature language and sexual content. The play runs through October 1st. Tickets are available online at www.planetant.com or in person at the theatre on the night of the performance, availability permitting. Planet Ant Theatre is located at 2357 Caniff in Hamtramck.