Falling down (with laughter)
Sacramento, CA 95814
When a play starts with a husband giving his wife an injection in the butt, you’ve got to wonder in what direction the story will lead. In Allison Moore’s hilarious comedy Collapse, that would be varied and unexpected paths through the current economic meltdown, familial turbulence, support groups and a bridge accident.
Moore’s new play only recently debuted this past February at the Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley, and for its season opener, B Street Theatre quickly snatched it up, thus making Sacramento only the second city to enjoy this dark comedy after its premiere run. And along with the play, B Street also grabbed one of the show’s stars, Amy Resnick, a B Street regular who debuted the eccentric sister role in the Berkeley production.
Collapse centers around a disaster—the 2007 collapse of the Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, which left 13 people dead and 145 injured. Minneapolis-based playwright Moore takes this catastrophe and looks at it through the eyes of Hannah (Elisabeth Nunziato), who is facing a collapsing marriage, a collapsing economy, her collapsing fertility and a husband who has post-traumatic stress disorder from being a survivor of the collapsing bridge.
Not a lot to laugh about, but Moore’s wicked sense of humor and dangerously funny dialogue gives a strangely endearing twist to tragedy. Hannah is trying to nurse husband David (Jason Kuykendall) through his emotional breakdown by sending him to support groups, but just as he’s ready to attend the first meeting, Hannah’s flighty sister Susan (Resnick) arrives toting all her baggage, physical and emotional.
Hannah flees to the support group, but instead of the intended gathering, she accidentally ends up at Sexual Addiction Anonymous, meeting the mysterious and charming Ted (Adrian Roberts, fresh from his intense role in Capital Stage’s Jesus Hopped the ’A’ Train).
Each of the characters is interesting and humorous, and the talented four-member B Street cast quickly embraces their quirks. Nunziato is the wife in control who is slowly losing it; Kuykendall, the husband in mental limbo; Roberts, the impotent sex addict; but it’s Resnick’s turn as an Eat-Pray-Lover on steroids that steals every scene she’s in—and we mean that in a good way.
The only weakness with Collapse is the ending, when Moore makes a strange mood change into serious sentimentality, which changes the play and characters’ tone from over-the-top comedy to cautious contemplation. It’s as if the playwright doesn’t trust herself or her audience to understand the underlying issues, and with no transition at all, this jarring shift feels unsettled.
On the whole, however, Collapse showcases a skilled playwright who understands that stress, relationships, society and tragedy are all fonts to dip into for the strange mix of humor and humanity. And the B Street cast responds, giving us fun and unforgettable characters caught up in the comedy and drama of life.