If there is anything we know for sure, it is that Company One makes sure that the experience we have at the theater is oftentimes as exciting as the play itself. This time around, Company One has partnered with Matter & Light Fine Art, a gallery in the SoWa district of Boston, to present Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Really, a thought-provoking ache of a play that seeks to examine the ways in which art and memory coexist.
In Really, a young woman known only as Girlfriend sits in the studio of her boyfriend, Calvin, who appears to have died. She is joined by Calvin’s mother as they attempt to cope with their loss. Flashbacks weave Calvin in and out of the action as the two very different women do their best to sort through the photographs that he left behind, reconciling their memories of this young man they both loved.
Company One co-founder Shawn LaCount directs, and here, he reflects on the play’s provocativeness, his collaboration with Matter & Light, and Really’s complicated themes.
The last handful of Company One productions have been hugely provocative, and this play is a bit quieter. Why was Really something you guys had to produce?
I think that one of the ways to provoke when you’ve been doing a lot of provocative work is to do something quiet. It’s important that we are constantly providing different experiences within the theater. It’s part of our responsibility to help us all think a little differently about what the theater can be. This play is one that we’ve been following for many years; it’s a piece that we’ve been invested in, primarily because we were invested in Jackie originally. We feel that she’s one of the more important new voices in the American theater, and though this play is quiet, it’s still a play that asks and delves into some important questions, such as the value of art, the concepts of loss and memory, relationships, and, of course, like much of our work, heavy themes of gender and class and race.
I read an interesting Village Voice article about Really that pointed out some of the racial questions brought up by having Girlfriend be black and Calvin be white.
Yeah, I do think that’s a piece of it, but the play has a lot to do with power and voice and representation. Outside of simply the couple in the play being multiracial, I think that the play speaks toward bigger questions and ideas about who we hear and who we promote and who succeeds and certainly, [at a time like this,] I’m thinking a lot about that; I’m thinking about who wins in this society and how and why.
Can you talk about your partnership with Matter & Light?
In the SoWa district there’s a number of galleries and all kinds of amazing stores. We are [working] directly with Matter & Light, who will be curating a visual art show also called Really, based mostly on photography and portraiture. We’ll be also partnering with Gallery Kayafas, which is directly upstairs, and that gallery will become our lobby and bar. The audience will gather upstairs in Gallery Kayafas and they will be able to get a drink and look at the art there, and then they’ll be brought downstairs in small groups to Matter & Light, where we have entirely renovated the space and created the theater.
Whose idea was it to stage the play in an art gallery?
I knew that I wanted to stage it in an art gallery or in an artist’s loft; they’re similar but they’re different, those two ideas. One is much more personal. The gallery allows us a different approach because it has a lot of the same flavor of those pristine white walls and a place where there can be a framing for all sorts of artistic expression. The gallery world is, generally speaking, a quiet world where there are viewers and there’s lot of money being spent on these great pieces of art, but it’s a very specific culture, and so I thought it would be really interesting. I thought it would be interesting to set this play against that backdrop in terms of its conversations around class and race. The staging is quite stark and lovely and beautiful, and I think the experience unfolds in a pretty complicated manner, which is very exciting for me.
What kind of questions do you feel are raised by the way that memory is dealt with in the play and the way that the moments photographs seem to capture become different things after they’ve been printed and hung on a wall?
I think that’s right, and I don’t know that there’s a simple answer. I think that there is a time when concepts of a photograph and concepts of a memory merge or get confused. The play deals with a transition of grief for both women and this idea that there’s a point where the memory is no longer related to somebody’s smell or somebody’s voice because we forget. And then what takes the place of that, oftentimes, are these permanent images that are healing because they help us remember, but frankly, they’re also quite tragic because as soon as they’re taken they’re wrapped up in concepts of death. They will outlast us and that’s what makes it complicated but also really human and it’s what connects to me.
REALLY. 1.25–2.12 AT COMPANY ONE THEATRE AT MATTER & LIGHT FINE ART, 63 THAYER ST., BOSTON. COMPANYONE.ORG
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.