Murky events surrounding an evening of partying and drinking dismantles relationships forever in Paul Downs Colaizzo’s riveting 2013 collegiate drama “Really Really,” currently receiving a terrifically compelling local premiere in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center courtesy of emerging Playground Theatre.
Deftly directed by Playground co-founder/artistic director Jenna Burnette and set at a prestigious university, Colaizzo’s fascinating and often humorous look at Millennials navigating through an uncertain future riddled by their own insecurities centers on an intimate encounter between popular rugby player Davis (Playground co-founder/artistic director Christopher Hahn) and the reserved, enigmatic Leigh (Kaleigh-Brooke Dillingham). Leigh specifically accuses Davis, a guy she’s had a crush on since freshman year, of rape although he has no recollection of the incident because he was drunk. The ensuing tug-of-war of words and feelings, resulting in a jaw-dropping climax, opens the door to gripping social commentary on class, privilege, egotism, and hypocrisy which Colaizzo potently explores. And in doing so, and without reservation, he keeps his audience grappled with questions. Would Leigh, who grew up in poverty abused and without prospects, have pursued Davis if he wasn’t wealthy? Did Davis, coming off a relationship that ended badly, pursue the unglamorous Leigh because he thought she was an easy rebound who would leap at the chance to be with him? No one really knows, and in turn, this tale immensely entices and provokes even from the very first scene which powerfully sets the mystery in motion with a very innocent and quiet acknowledgement of pain.
Hahn and Dillingham only appear together in two scenes but they’re an electrifying, honest pair. In one of his most vulnerable and visceral portrayals, Hahn conveys great sensitivity and responsibility throughout to credibly fuel Davis’ good intent and noble reputation. At the same rate, he fiercely taps into Davis’ dark side when his world crashes down. Dillingham, a memorably perky Elle Woods in Beavercreek Community Theatre’s “Legally Blonde,” strikingly inhabits Leigh with needy ruthlessness feeding the vindictive character’s chief desire to rest in the arms of a guy who can truly protect and provide for her. Dillingham, fiery to the hilt in the final moments, proves love and security matter most to Leigh and she will stop at nothing to accomplish her mission even if she has to destroy Davis in the process. After all, in a furious rage, Leigh reminds him, “I’m choosing not to fail.”
Accenting Davis and Leigh’s combustible world are an assortment of colorfully opinionated characters embodied by a uniformly excellent supporting cast. As Leigh’s skeptical, goal-oriented roommate Grace, Jenna Gomes scores laughs and astutely interprets Colaizzo’s enlightening dialogue in two juicy Millennial-driven monologues addressing The Future Leaders of America. Alaska Stoughton is a sarcastic joy in the unnecessary yet entertaining role of Leigh’s snide older sister Haley. As Davis’ brutish, slacker roommate Cooper, Zack Duncan, a towering presence and an appealing newcomer to Dayton’s theater scene, fits the jock stereotype while smoothly balancing blustery machismo with genuine earnestness. As Davis’ studious, thoughtful friend Johnson, the endearing Timothy Moore provides a wonderful moment of reflection involving loyalty. Tyler Henry, in a shrewd bit of casting, is a source of dramatic heft as Leigh’s gullible boyfriend Jimmy, a guy no one likes but everyone needs since he’s the entitled son of one of the university’s power players.
Additionally, Burnette’s commendable artistic team includes scenic designer Isaac Hollister (ensuring the play’s dual apartments differ in tone and personality), lighting designer Derek Dunavent, and sound engineer Luke Tandy. Playground Theatre debuted last season with an amusing and committed look at “The Breakfast Club,” but “Really Really” impressively solidifies this troupe as Dayton’s risk-taking, Millennial-centric outlet for contemporary, edgy theater you need to see.
“Really Really” continues through Dec. 6 in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday. Act One: 55 minutes; Act Two: 60 minutes. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.