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Company One Theatre’s ‘REALLY’ confronts grief, relationships

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Company One Theatre’s ‘REALLY’ confronts grief, relationships
Rachel Cognata and Aleksandr Portenko in “REALLY.” (Photo: Photo: Paul Fox)

“REALLY,” Company One Theatre’s latest performance, uproots its traditional black box setting for a performance staged in SoWa’s Matter & Light Fine Art Gallery. In the intimate, touching play, two women struggle to come to terms with the death of a young photographer. Mother and girlfriend grapple with comforting themselves and each other, and proving who knew him better and loved him more.

Author: Photo: Paul FoxKippy Goldfarb and Aleksandr Portenko in “REALLY.”

If you go

”REALLY” is on stage at Matter & Light Fine Art, a gallery in SoWa through Feb. 12. For more information, visit:

Grief and resentment

The entire play is set in the dead artist and girlfriend’s studio and apartment as the girlfriend photographs the mother. The mother handles the awkward situation and her grief with a constant stream of chatter, desperate for a verbal connection with the only other person who understands what she’s going through. The girlfriend recoils into herself, speaking sparsely and not showing emotion. The two women are experiencing radically different types of grief. The mother also has lost her husband, and finds herself without the two men that she’s poured her life into. The girlfriend is beginning to find her identity beyond her boyfriend, who frequently overshadowed her.

The main character of the show is the deceased Calvin, and frankly, he doesn’t deserve it. Though the actor, Alex Portenko, does an excellent job, the character of Calvin is insipid. A temperamental, spoiled artist, his interest is only in his work and himself. He claims to love his girlfriend but really just loves what she does for his art behind the camera. When she talks about her own future, her own work, and her own ideals, he ignores them and reminds her that she’s “very beautiful,” as though that should be enough.

Calvin’s past relationships with his mother and girlfriend are revealed in flashbacks that play out simultaneously with the girlfriend and mother’s photo shoot. Past and present are performed in tandem. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether we’re seeing a flashback or a dream. In many ways, this structure mirrors the grieving process. Time becomes meaningless as the two women attempt to reconcile the gaping holes in their lives.

Though the underlying theme is grief, there’s much humor, too. The mother, likely in her 60s, attempts to connect with the girlfriend by talking about hookups and the artist’s life. “That’s the difference between artist’s pictures and normal pictures, right?” she says. “They’re interesting, even ugly. Sad.” She doesn’t get it, but she’s trying. At many points it seems like they’re about to break through and reach each other, but resentment always stops them short. They at once need each other and blame each other.

A poignant portrait of grief, identity, and relationships, “REALLY” is brought to life in the gallery setting. For anyone who has lost a loved one, or even had to get over a subpar boyfriend, the show speaks volumes.