Pretty is Not an Even Exchange for Powerful : REALLY

Rachel Cognata in REALLY (Photo by Jeremy Fraga)

Presented by Company One Theatre
With Matter & Light Fine Art, SoWa
With support from Gallery Kayafas
Written by Jackie Sibblies Drury
Directed by Shawn LaCount
Dramaturgy by Ilana M Brownstein and Francisca De Silviera

January 25 – March 12, 2017
63 Thayer St
Boston, MA 02118
C1 on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(SoWa,Boston, MA) Subscribers to American Theatre Magazine will recognize Really from its September 2016 issue. I was excited at the chance to see Company One perform a play I’d only read before. C1 did not disappoint. Still, I had more questions after seeing the show than I did after reading it.

Calvin (Aleksandr Portenko)  is missing. His Girlfriend (Rachel Cognata) and Mother (Kippy Goldfarb) meet up in Calvin’s gallery to memorialize his disappearance. During their visit, they discuss life, art, and Calvin. Neither is sure that the other remembers as he was, for who he was. Mourning isn’t easy for either of them.

The women in Really don’t have names. They are defined by their relationship to Calvin. Calvin is a self-absorbed, pretentious, abusive genius with a modicum of talent for photography. He’s so successful in his field that he gets away with squashing Girlfriend’s artistic voice while convincing her that he’s “helping.” Mother casually tells Girlfriend that her art doesn’t require any real talent.

Everyone in Really is intent on silencing, and invalidating Girlfriend. It’s the kind of persistent abuse that brings a person to believe that the abusers are right. The abuse is glaringly obvious but so integrated into the play that the audience doesn’t always catch it. Drury’s embeds triggers in Calvin’s speak. Only those conditioned to catch them do.  Drury is pointing a finger at all of us.

Really is a complicated show. It isn’t enjoyable so much as upwardly perplexing. The cast gives so much to their characters that isn’t written on the page. Were it for the care that Cognata and Goldfarb give their roles, we’d miss a great deal of the undertones inherent in Drury’s work. Girlfriend doesn’t have many lines but Cognata gives her a full presence. Goldfarb wilts Mother beautifully. She’s an undernourished New England flower dropping petals. Aided by LaCount’s staging and direction, they turn an abstract puzzle of a play into a quiet discourse on feminism, artistic voice, and loss.

Portenko is crucially unkind as Calvin. He’s charismatic enough for us to give him chance after chance to redeem himself. We rightfully distrust him, but we want to trust him. It’s a G darn trap.  

The dramaturgy work by Brownstein and De Silviera is impeccable. They give us thorough accounts of the influences of Really. If their work in the programme is any indication, they served their cast with great dedication. The attendee is given insight into the nooks and crannies of film photography, Drury’s writing, and the human mind.

C1’s Really is also host to an exhibition on “memory, image, and reality (were) inspired by Drury’s play.” Watch out for the gorgeous, truthful glamor portraits by Nicole Buchanan with the far wall of the performance space. Jesse Burke’s “Wild & Precious” installation is emotionally violent. Please take care if you have triggers.

If you are train and bus dependent, I suggest giving yourself plenty of time to find the galleries. Googlemaps lied to us several times in our journey to Really. Lyft had nearly no options for a ride over the bridge. Taxis are taxis. Shockingly, there was plenty of parking available on a Thursday night. If you have a car, you win this round.  

Really reminds us of this lesson: It is not necessary to silence others in order to raise your own voice. If anyone tries, stab them in the artistic nerve and fly away. If they try to invalidate your work. Eat them. No one gets to decide if your art is worthy except you.  

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