It’s clear that stage right is a girls’ apartment, inhabited by coeds who like to keep things tidy. They have curtained the windows, decluttered the coffee table, Lysoled the kitchen counters.
But that is where the clarity ends, because the plot of “Really Really” hinges on an allegation of a sexual nature that may or may not be true, because everyone involved has memories of that night that are foggy like a window after the rain, blurred by beer and sleep and, perhaps, a subconscious desire to forget.
Already the line between the girls’ pristine dwelling and the chaos just beside it is fading; by the end of Act 1 it will disappear, and no one’s life will be clean anymore.
“Really Really” was written by the 26-year-old Paul Downs Colaizzo. It promises to be an intense and intimate two hours. The show, intended for mature audiences, contains explicit situations and the kind of language this paper can’t print.
The crux of the play occurs “when a less privileged student accuses a member of the school’s rugby team of an act of sexual aggression,” explained Colaizzo.
“People are scared because it does deal with some tough issues,” said Eric Schaeffer, Signature’s artistic director. “That, to me, is what makes exciting theater.”
Colaizzo, who is literally on the edge of his seat when talking about the show, says cast member Kim Rosen’s description of the title is best: that it’s about the distinction between “what you want and what you really, really want.” A woman at a first look for Signature’s funders asked him whether audiences could expect to leave the theater “with hope.” Colaizzo said no.
“It doesn’t hold any punches,” Schaeffer said. “It’s real life.”
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To put Colaizzo’s age in perspective, he is younger than the Apple Macintosh, younger than Mark Zuckerberg and younger than Zuckerberg’s big-screen embodiment, Jessie Eisenberg. He’s only a few years older than the writer wunderkind of the year, Tea Obreht, author of “The Tiger’s Wife.”
He is also the youngest playwright with whom Signature has ever worked, though Schaeffer said: “I don’t think of Paul as being inexperienced, because he’s come from an acting background, so he’s been on both sides of the footlights. He has a worldly sense about him.”
For Colaizzo “to have arrived at this point in his career so early, it really is very, very unusual and quite extraordinary,” said Richard Wesley, chair of the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at New York University. (Colaizzo attended NYU but did not study under Wesley.)
Colaizzo’s achievement, Wesley said, is the equivalent of “a midshipman fresh out of the Naval Academy getting command of a destroyer. A junior executive just out of Wharton suddenly being given the keys to the executive suite at American Express. That’s what this kid has succeeded in doing: getting a play fully produced by a major theater company. It just doesn’t happen every day to 26-year-olds.”