By Olivia Oriaku, news correspondent
Company One Theatre’s (C1) dramatic performance “REALLY” explores how people deal with grief and how memories are captured and interpreted through photography.
The play made its New England premiere on Wednesday, Jan. 25 and will run until March 4 at the Matter & Light Fine Art gallery in the South End. It is here that audience members become fully consumed in the piece by Jackie Sibblies Drury, with whom C1 collaborated.
Shawn LaCount, director of “REALLY,” said C1 has been interested in Drury’s work since working with ArtsEmerson in 2014 to produce her play “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915.”
“I think Jackie’s voice is an important one in new American theatre,” LaCount said.
“REALLY” revolves around the characters Girlfriend and Mother, who are left to deal with the loss of their loved one Calvin, a talented artist and photographer. The entirety of the play takes place in one room – Calvin and Girlfriend’s apartment. There, Girlfriend and Mother explore the depths of photography and reflect on the moments they shared with Calvin by looking through his photos.
“The play forces viewers to realize that memory is not always fact, it is what we make of it,” said Rachel Cognata, who plays Girlfriend.
In much of the play, the characters are between real time and memory. The lighting effects in “REALLY” play a role in the audience’s understanding of these shifts from past to present. Lighting designer Jason Fok said the light not only helps communicate to the audience that the story is changing to different parts, but it also allows for viewers to know when characters are moving to and from their own memories.
“The moments when it was fully green on stage or there was intense color allowed for me to think that we were in full memory,” Fok said.
It was the design team’s job to figure out how much of a shift into the character’s memories they wanted to go, Fok said. At the beginning of the play, when Calvin first enters the room, the audience is already diving into Girlfriend’s memory.
“Here, the lighting look is not too dissimilar from the beginning of the play, suggesting that we have not yet fallen too deep into Girlfriend’s memory,” Fok said. “It is in more of the dramatic lighting looks where the audience finds themselves fully engrossed in the character’s memories.”
The sounds and silences in “REALLY” make the performance more realistic, Cognata said.
“As theatregoers, sometimes silences and pauses, those moments that seemingly nothing is happening, are uncomfortable,” Cognata said. “But those moments are real moments where you are reflecting on what someone just said to you. Moments like these are in the play and make it very realistic.”
As stated by members of the creative team and cast members, the play explores a diversity of concepts that are still relevant in today’s society.
“Concepts of race, age, gender and class are also present in the play,” LaCount said.
Cognata gave insight into how these more obscure ideas can go unnoticed by audience members.
“Though not explicitly mentioned, these concepts are equally as important as the others and can often times be overlooked,” Cognata said.
The production itself speaks volumes about the direction that C1 is taking with its performances.
“Company One’s ‘REALLY’ pushes the boundaries a little bit and gets people thinking in ways they haven’t before,” Cognata said.
Photo courtesy Jeremy Fraga, Company One Theatre