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A Playwright Keeps It "Really Really" Ambiguous Paul Downs Colaizzo invites arguments at MCC Theater

By LINDA BUCHWALD

In Really Really, a wild party leads to a damaging rumor that tests the loyalties and friendships of a group of college friends. The events of that night are never fully spelled out for the audience, and as patrons left a recent production, they had many theories.

No one knows what happened, however, except the playwright, Paul Downs Colaizzo.

"There's a fine line between 'unspecific' and 'ambiguous,' and I feel comfortable and certain that if you listen closely, it's trackable," he says. "It's not trackable in the sense that it's obvious, or that if you sit down with the text you'll eventually be able to figure it out. But what I know to have happened as the inciting incident of the play is honored throughout the play."

Really Really is Colaizzo's New York playwriting debut. "I think ahead a lot in life, and for whatever reason, I really did not think ahead when it came to this career of mine," he says. "I only really started focusing on writing as a career in 2009. And I had very little information. I really just found out last month how much playwrights make Off Broadway." (Colaizzo previously worked as an assistant company manager at Xanadu, where he developed a popular web series about the fictional Broadway mogul Cubby Bernstein, and later, he assisted Douglas Carter Beane as an associate writer on Sister Act.)

Really Really was first produced at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia last year. For that production, Colaizzo told the cast the details of the incidents in the play. But for the New York production, directed by David Cromer in an MCC Theater production at the Lucille Lortel, the actors have been encouraged to come up with their own truths about that night. "If it's even necessary to their character," Colaizzo adds. "Zosia {Mamet, who plays Leigh, the accuser} and I never had a full discussion about what happened, but through the rehearsal process and what she has said, I think we're on the same page."

However people interpret the conclusion, Colaizzo is glad to have written a piece specifically for twentysomethings. He initially had the idea for this play in 2007, a semester before he graduated from college. At the time, he was consumed with thoughts about entering the real world. "I think regardless of the generation, it's an incredibly selfish time of life.  I think the rug is pulled out from under you no matter where you're coming from, and I think it's the one time in life when you're really allowed to be a mess," he says.

Really Really is the first part of a trilogy that Colaizzo calls "Give Get Want." He says the play is about going after the things you want (hence its role in the trilogy) and how the "same things that create success are the same things that can leave us in very damaging places in relation to one another." Though his characters can behave in horrible ways, he also finds much to admire in them. "I actually have a very positive outlook for this generation. And the play explores what can happen dramatically when a group who has been taught to defend their own happiness approaches a hurdle they never learned how to deal with," he says. "And just as there's ambiguity in the events of the play as far as what the truth is of what actually happened, I think there's room for an equal debate on the thoughts on this generation."

For Colaizzo, the most interesting theatre requires debate and discussion, and he is pleased that audiences have been arguing about  Really Really. He says, "The worst thing that could happen is somebody goes to a play and doesn't think about it as soon as the curtain call is over."

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Linda Buchwald tweets about theatre as @PataphysicalSci. She contributes to StageGrade and the theatre blog Pataphysical Science.

Photo by Janna Giacoppo