High anxiety in 'Collapse' 

Hannah’s life is falling apart. She can’t get pregnant, she’s one step away from losing her job, and she thinks her husband, who hasn’t been to work for months, may be an alcoholic. All he does is sit around the house, watering the plants with beer.

The title of “Collapse,” Allison Moore’s incisive and very funny new comedy now in its world premiere production at Aurora Theatre Company, doesn’t simply describe Hannah’s incipient crisis.

It also refers to the 2007 collapse of the Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, which sent cars tumbling into the waters below, leaving 13 people dead and 145 injured.

Moore’s script, developed as part of Aurora’s Global Age project, interweaves the two stories in a surprising and often affecting meditation on the randomness of loss. Call it comedy for the new Age of Anxiety.

Hannah (Carrie Paff), a Minneapolis lawyer, could be anxiety’s poster girl. Exhausted, fearful and high-strung, she’s a control freak who can’t stop pushing her zoned-out husband, David (Gabriel Marin) to get help.

When her flaky sister, Susan (Amy Resnick) arrives from California for an open-ended stay — she’s lost her job and her home — Hannah seems ready to unravel for good.

Then Hannah drops the bombshell: David, she tells Susan, was driving one of the cars that went off the bridge. He’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but refuses to attend a support group.

Susan urges Hannah to go on her own. She does, and meets Ted (Aldo Billingslea), a smooth-talking sex addict who sweeps her off her feet. Susan, meanwhile, tells David that she’s actually come to town to deliver an illegal package to a guy named Bulldog.

Directed at a dizzying pace by Jessica Heidt, Moore’s 80-minute script (performed without intermission) runs hot throughout, revealing secrets and revving through riffs on loneliness, recovery culture, the economic collapse and other contemporary stressors.

The cast delivers it all with intelligence, emotional depth and perfect comic timing. Paff tempers Hannah’s glassy edge with genuine pathos, and Marin’s frozen David thaws brilliantly. Resnick makes Susan a hilarious live wire, and Billingsley gives Ted just the right blend of hapless swagger.

The designs are just as apt — Melpomene Katakalos’ set, which suspends a broken bridge over Hannah’s living room, creates a vertiginous atmosphere. Lighting (Heather Basarab), costumes (Cassandra Carpenter) and sound (Will McCandless) add an up-to-the-minute feel.

In the final scene, the characters converge in unexpected ways. Like Hannah, we all live close to tragedy. But “Collapse” shows that it’s possible to come back from the edge.



Where: Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes March 6
Tickets: $34 to $45 general; $10 to $15 students
Contact: (510) 843-4822; www.auroratheatre.org

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Georgia Rowe

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