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A CurtainUp Review
By Zoe Erwin-Longstaff
The potential for an “odd-couple” narrative is laid out simply. Yet, almost immediately the high tensions that are evoked make it clear that this is not a light, but very dark comedic romp.
Grange, the phony, affected roommate, immediately has a sinister look in his eye. He makes a stink about Bromley getting the bed that he prefers. There is nothing apparently different between the two beds, but as, we laugh over their inane quibbles, we know that an unnerving authority is being established by Grange over his roommate.
Grange’s unceasing verbal spillage is likewise unnerving. Why is this young man so at ease in asserting himself so aggressively? And why are we simultaneously intrigued and put off?
Playwright Kessler adeptly treads a fine line between the engaging and the downright creepy. We cringe as Grange quickly ups the anti by bringing out a video camera. The two discuss Bromley’s sexual experiences with women, and, despite obvious discomfort, Bromley allows his admission of virginity to be documented. His having been too candid immediately puts him at the other man's mercy.
We are next introduced to the play’s love interest, unsubtly named Doe (Anna Stromberg) . That she is a pawn among the men, at once adorable and mindless, borders on the offensive. Her flimsy back story of childhood neglect makes her ripe for manipulation. When Grange seduces her, we aren’t that surprised. But then he takes things a step farther and requests that she switch beds and “fuck Bromley” (whom she doesn’t realize has been hiding under the covers during her romp with Grange). Her compliance is indeed shocking.
Off-kilter and even menacing, Collision is best when it embraces weirdness, enticing us with Grange’s anti-logic. Though his cheesy voice is consistently annoying you can’t help becomingg captivated by his daring.
The circle of menace is completed with the introduction of the raspy-voiced, trench-coat wearing Professor Denton (Michael Cullen, an actor with much experience in plays filled with menace) . By this point it's not all that surprisingly that he too is under Grange’s spell. Somehow a sense of love and family is achieved among these weirdos, who declare themselves to be “as close as any four people could become.” Continuing on as collaborators in Grange’s documentary pursuit, they start to plot out a film of confession and violence.
That the cultish connotations aren’t apparent until midway through the drama is all to the play' s credit. One cannot help but be appalled by the random spurts of violence, despite their seeming non-senselessness. But then everything falls into place. Indeed, the conclusion left me shocked and tense — and thoroughly impressed.
Editor's Note: This production is especially timely since Kessler's famous and widely produced 1983 play, Orphans, is coming back to Broadway this season starring Alec Baldwin and Shia LeBeouf,
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