“Collision” at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through February 17, 2013)

By Lyle Kessler
Directed by David Fofi
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

In the online poetry dictionary “Toto Poetry,” one posted rondelet defines ‘collision’ in this way: “Cause motions, /assume the ready position. /Cause emotions, parasitic oscillations. /To go into operation, /strike with disgust or revulsion. /Cause emotions.”

In the Amoralists Theatre Company’s World Premiere of “Collision” currently running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Grange collides with his new roommate Bromley, Professor Denton one of his instructors, and Doe a fellow student he fancies to bed with. As Grange collides with each of them he sets a variety of situations in motion and causes each person to erupt with unfamiliar and uncomfortable emotions. Each strikes with disgust or revulsion which causes further emotions to surface. All of this colliding ultimately results in a synchronicity of “parasitic oscillations” that shocks the senses and stirs deep feelings and rattles the chains of a Pandora’s Box of catastrophe.

Much like Alex the protagonist in Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novella “A Clockwork Orange,” Grange manipulates the minds of his band of academics and transforms them into a band of (perhaps) criminals who are willing to follow Grange wherever he leads. James Kautz’s Grange is maniacal as he manipulates his merry band of misfits, identifying the weaknesses of each and transforming those deficits into the assets he needs to fulfill his mission. Nick Lawson’s Bromley is perfectly indecisive and self-defacing. Anna Stromberg manages successfully to unearth a Doe whose insecurities make her easy prey for Grange’s misogyny. Michael Cullen gives Professor Denton the vulnerability needed to make his complicity believable. And Craig ‘muMs” Grant creates a Renel whose vicious streak provides the perfect foil to the real violence brewing in the dorm room.

Grange wants redemption. After badgering Doe for an extended period of time, she dissents to his point of view. Although she tells him to “Stop [messing] with my head,” Grange continues to extol her to “Stop trying to make ends meet.”When she leaves, Grange reflects that he almost achieved redemption: “if only she had said no!” But Doe does not say ‘no’ and Grange does not achieve redemption.

During the rehearsal process for “Collision,” the creative team and cast decided to make changes to the play’s tone (from dark comedy to drama) and to the play’s ending. Without revealing too much of the climax, falling action, and resolution, it is clear that the original ending involved a dark murder-suicide while the new ending breaks the fourth wall and includes the audience. Although the original ending seems more powerful and is more consistent with the plays characterization and conflicts, the new ending engages the audience in a matrix of moral judgments about national and global rage, violence, guns, murder, and complicity in crime.

The universe is replete with motions that place different nations, different peoples in the “ready position:” ready to flee, ready to fight, ready to struggle for life, ready to raise the flag of defeat and surrender. It seems that as time passes the fight response supersedes the response of flight. People gather in squares across the globe no longer willing to accept despotic demons ruling their lives and they are fighting, Issues of sex and sexual status mingled with the desire for authentic equality collide with repressive religious ideologies and pathetic political responsibility and those repressed for far too long are ready to fight back in the courts, in the chambers of congress, even in the streets. Ideologies collide, points-of-view collide, beliefs deeply rooted in tradition collide and all sides seem willing to take up arms. How this will end is anyone’s guess. But if the collision in Grange’s dorm room is any indicator, the end might not be what we would hope. Perhaps the opportunities for redemption are slipping away.