“Collapse” at New York City Center Stage II (New Home of the Women’s Project Theater)

April 15, 2013 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Written by Allison Moore
Directed by Jackson Gay
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Things fall apart (Chinua Achebe) and the center sometimes just does not hold (W. B. Yeats). For Hannah (Hannah Cabell) and David (Elliot Villar) the center fails when the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in 2007 sends David’s car into the river (almost drowning) and the so-called Global Financial Crisis of 2008 threatens Hannah’s position at her law firm. David is suffering from PTSD and feels he is inadequate as a husband and helpmate and Hannah has gone into caregiver overdrive, exacerbating David’s feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. They each feel the other is ready to bolt and neither is communicating their fears with any degree of adequacy. Things are in a heightened state of collapse. David admits, “Things collapse. Bridges. Companies. Marriages.”

Adding to the implosion is the unannounced arrival of Hannah’s sister Susan (Nadia Bowers) at the couple’s home and the seductive presence of sex addict Ted (Maurice McRae). Both of these characters serve as effective foils to Hannah’s and David’s attempts to transcend their crippling fear of abandonment and re-find their love for each other. They are both stuck and do not know how to escape their terror. David tells Hannah, “I can’t let go, okay? I can’t go up, I can’t go down, I’m just stuck here. I’m just so sick of it, the disappointment, and the pity, and the panic all the time, in parking ramps, and airplanes, and elevators.” And Hannah confesses to David, “I am so lonely, David. I’m sorry, and I’m not trying to justify. I just, I miss you.”

Hannah and David misunderstand each other in their journeys to health and it is David’s decision to go back to the bridge and climb it that results in the beginning of healing. When Hannah discovers David has chosen to climb the bridge (trope for overcoming his fear), Hannah rushes to the bridge and tells David, “But obviously you don’t need a meeting! You don’t need any help! You can just call in sick, or drink some more beer, or climb the fucking bridge! What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that? Maybe if we both climb the bridge that will fix everything!” And that is what they do: climb the bridge together.

In a way, their climbing the bridge together works for them. It does not solve their problems completely but the shared act marks a beginning. After coming down from the bridge, David is able to share with Hannah, “It’s like I’m waiting for us to fall, I know it’s coming but I don’t know how to stop it.” Hannah replies, “Maybe we can’t. Maybe we just figure out how to fall together.” “Collapse” is about two persons in crisis trying to find a way to cope, to process angst, to move forward in life and relationship.

The playwright, the director, and the cast deliver a deliciously dramatic bait and switch. Dining room farce slap-stick humor reminiscent of some of the best sitcoms in the recent past keeps the audience busy while the climax of Allison Moore’s “Collision” creeps up with a cathartic clout so powerful not even the actors are prepared for the impact. Under Jackson Gay’s direction, the ensemble cast effectively transforms the collapse of a bridge and the near collapse of a relationship to an examination of all things that have the potential to collapse, unwind, fragment, or topple. Perhaps David and Hannah’s decision to “fall together” is the best humanity can do as well. Listening carefully to one another, respecting one another, opening the self to the other is the beginning of redemption.