Receiving a production at Cleveland’s Beck Center for the Arts is the show, Really Really. Based loosely on the Duke lacrosse team scandal that sparked controversy starting in 2006, the script of Really Really reigns its focus on a girl who cried rape and the self-serving attributes of “Generation Me” through the lens of a dark comedy. Originally, I was very excited to see this production. Director Donald Carrier’s production of Clybourne Park at Cleveland Play House through the Case Western Reserve MFA program was exceptionally phenomenal as it was eye-opening. But even with Mr. Carrier’s articulate direction and talented cast, I don’t think this is a show that should make its way to any stage.
Billed as a show with “contemporary drama that pushes the limits and embraces the harsh reality of today‘s youth,” we meet Leigh (Molly Israel), a student in college who comes from an impoverished family. We could probably say that Leigh is the first person in her family to head to college, but even in college, we see that Leigh has trouble affording expenses. Living in what seemed to be a cookie-cutter college apartment, Leigh and her roommate Grace (Rachel Lee Kolis) come home late, stumbling around drunk from a college party. It wasn’t until Grace went to bed that, however, that we found Leigh sitting on the couch of her living room saying “ow” before the scene ended.
The next day, we learn that Leigh’s boyfriend Jimmy (Randy Dierkes) was away for the night when Leigh was at the party. Oh, and I should also mention that Leigh is pregnant and both her and Jimmy are excited to have the baby. But while Jimmy was away, we soon figure out that Leigh has a secret of her own; she was supposedly raped at the party by Davis (Daniel Scott Telford), a male friend of hers, hence Leigh saying “ow” the night of the party. What also comes to light is Leigh and Grace’s fragmented relationship, which seems like a typical college roommate assignment situation. Both are acquaintances and are friendly with one another, but at their core, they’re completely different people. Grace, unlike Leigh, comes from a wealthy family and aspires to be a future leader of tomorrow. In fact, she’s a conservative-minded politician in the making and could be the daughter of Republican, Ted Cruz.
The party, where the supposed rape happened, was at Cooper’s apartment (played by Chris Richards). Cooper and Davis resemble your typical college frat boys: loud, egregiously foul-mouthed and just ridiculous. Although Leigh’s rape accusation has yet to surface, we find a different side of the story with Davis, who champions himself for being able to ‘get some’ at the party with Leigh. The only difference is that Davis doesn’t remember much, as everyone was drunk, including Leigh.
The play starts unraveling when Jimmy comes over to Cooper’s apartment and starts asking questions about the party he had at his place, like “Was Leigh there?” Through an intense interrogation by Jimmy, Cooper and his friend, Johnson (Jack Schmitt) confess to Jimmy that his girlfriend, Leigh, had sex with Davis. In a fiery and frustrated rage, Jimmy storms out of the apartment saying, “I’m going to kill, Leigh.”
Teary-eyed, angry and blushed, Jimmy returns to Leigh’s apartment where he is about to rip into her for having sex with Davis. It isn’t until Leigh confesses to Jimmy that Davis raped her that the narrative changes. And I should add that Leigh also had a very bloody miscarriage in her bed the morning after the rape.
Continuing along, with Leigh and Jimmy calling the Dean of the college, it seems as if Davis is about to find himself in jail. As the Dean brings him in for questioning in the midst of midterms week, Davis finds himself incredibly confused, frustrated and anxious. All he knows is that he had sex with Leigh, but he didn’t commit a crime. From there, all the cards begin to fall and it looks like Davis his guilty. Or is he?
The real plot twist takes place when we later find Davis alone and Leigh. Davis comes over to ask Leigh what she remembers from the night of the party since he doesn’t remember much. But she strangely asks Davis questions such as, “Do you remember me kissing your neck?” and “Do you remember me breathing into your mouth?” In an incredibly shocking moment, the sultry line of questions resultantly ends up in the two actually having sex that evening in Leigh’s apartment.
The next morning, Leigh is in the kitchen and Davis stumbles out of her bedroom only wearing a shirt and his underwear. A few moments later, she tells Davis to leave as Jimmy is coming over real soon. Davis, confused yet again, is asking “What? Aren’t we okay?” This is especially important considering that Davis and Leigh will face each other today where he will be found either guilty or not guilty.
Then, Leigh’s entire spiderweb unwinds itself and Leigh reveals she is accusing Davis of rape in order to get money out of him. It seems that everything was a whole charade and Davis is just an innocent victim of Leigh’s selfishness and need for monetary security. But then, in a spite of rage, (spoiler alert) Davis actually rapes her before the play ends. As you can tell, plot twists are the name of the game in this show.
I don’t necessarily have any issues with this specific production, but I do have issues with the playwright and Beck’s choice to produce this show. Understandably, I know this show is meant to blur lines and gray areas and to make people ask questions, but rape culture is much more different now than when the show was initially put on stage in 2012. To make Leigh appear both as a predator and a victim presents an idea to the audience that when someone in real life says they have been raped, it gives off the impression that that individual is lying. Our society already has enough trouble believing when a man or a woman has been raped, and to present a work like Really Really, it further credits that disbelief.
It is true that there are people out there who claim to have been raped when they haven’t been, but the act of rape is much more common than we hear. And with a show like Really Really, which channels the audience through a tube of twists, turns, truths and falsehoods, it only makes one less likely to believe or examine a rape allegation.
Carrier and the cast nailed the play as it was intended to be put on stage, but ultimately it was a poor judgment call to produce it. If they’re looking to present a show on egocentrism with Millennials in the modern age, I suggest a show like Jiehie Park’s Peerless than Really Really. And if you’re going to do a play about rape, which is incredibly sensitive, you have to be certain you’re presenting a serious production that will push society forward with clarity, compassion and understanding. Not a play that throws it around like a buzz word.
Really Really will be running at Beck Center for the Arts through July 2, 2017. You can purchase your tickets here.
By: Logan Foster