Nick Lawson, Michael Cullen, James Kautz and Anna Stromberg in a
scene from Collision
(Photo credit: Russ Rowland)
Alone in his dorm room, the music at blast level, big, gangly Bromley (Nick Lawson) is dancing in complete abandon, in peril of flinging his body parts splat against the tan, prosaic walls of designer Alfred Schatz’s brilliantly appropriate set. He is stopped in his frantic tracks when new roommate, lithe, trim Grange (James Kautz) enters. And, oozing charm, proceeds to take over. The premises and Bromley, all at the same time. Grange instantly susses out Bromley’s vulnerabilities and winds him around his little finger. To what ends we haven’t a clue. Simple power trip? No, it’s more than that. But he’s not just the charmer we see, he’s – a little scary. Director David Fofi has plunged us into Lyle Kessler’s uncomfortably deceptive play and set out the playwright’s hooks.
It isn’t long before the entire dorm room is Grange’s quarters and acolyte Bromley is a ready and willing slave although he still thinks he’s a partner in whatever Grange comes up with. Which is – another seduction. He’s going to get that knockout looker, Doe, up in this very room and bang her until she’s crazy. Bromley, jealous, dashed, will make himself scarce. No need. Grange wants him to see how it’s done. And Bromley does. And Doe, beautiful Doe (Anna Stromberg) gets the ride of her young life. She’s Grange’s, oh is she ever. So that when Grange suggests she offer her luscious body to Bromley in the next bed, she’s outraged, offended, hurt, and talked into it as if it were totally reasonable. Grange now owns the two of them.
His next conquest is for a different purpose. He hates his philosophy Professor Denton with a passion only slightly simulated. He’s Denton’s best student and Denton never calls on him. He wants Bromley to beat Denton to the floor, thus to strip away his professorial superiority and then we’ll see what happens. Denton (Michael Cullen), secure in his power over his students, curious as all get out to see what makes this Grange character tick, breaks his rule of not associating with students outside the classroom and shows up, going into lecture mode, just as Grange had predicted earlier to Bromley. He’s also a tippler, carrying his own flask which he daringly, confidently shares with Grange, who shares it with Bromley. At Grange’s cue, Bromley smashes Denton’s gut. By the time Denton, on the floor, as desired, recovers, he’s ready for Grange’s next step. Wooing by Grange. Who uses all his persuasive abilities and tools, among them the favor of enjoying Doe’s body. Denton, when it comes down to it, is a pushover. Especially after they’ve bared more than bodies, but souls, at Grange’s direction. He hugs them together in common bonds of hatred. Stronger than love.
So that when Grange invites Renel (Craig “muMs” Grant) and his sample case to join them, we are expecting drugs. No. It’s guns. The play’s taken an uglier turn. Grange negotiates. He even talks Renel into accepting his check because he’s buying all of them, a gun for him, a gun for Bromley, a gun for Denton and a gun for Doe. Who resists. Just for playing, for acting out. Oh, well… The ammunition is for – authenticity.
And they play. And play. The fun wilder and wilder. More and more intense. Harder and harder to enjoy. For them as well as a very gun conscious audience afraid they see where this is going as Grange welds them into a team with the hate weapon. But Renel comes back, dangerous. Grange’s check has bounced. And as Renel puts a gun on Grange, Denton smashes in Renel’s skull with a heavy statuette. Grange seizes the moment. Now, not only are they ready, they have to act. Or, as he sees, they will panic, and his team, his family that he’s built so carefully, will fall apart.
With his wonderful company of actors, director Fofi has whipped playwright Kessler’s opportunistic, taut melodrama into an object lesson frighteningly apt for today’s social climate. This morality play, or rather, immorality play, conjures up a vision we don’t want to see, of ordinary, susceptible targets ready to do evil at the will of a charismatic persuader. Kessler doesn’t give us an out. How did we get here? Are we doomed? We can’t just sit by and let it happen. We’ve done that in the past. Today, what do we do?
Collision (through February 17)
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, off 11th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.CollisionThePlay.com