It was a banner season for NOVA Nightsky Theater, the Falls Church-based brainchild of Jaclyn Robertson, Adam Ressa, and Ward Kay. From tackling a comedy with heightened language and slapstick schticks to a Shakespearean tragedy, the team of multitalented creators decided to round-off their season with, as Robertson puts it, “the best play you’ve never heard of.” NOVA Nightsky drew from the talents of director Paul Di Salvo and assistant director Youri Kim to stage “Collapse,” a sharp dramedy penned by Allison Moore. One of NOVA Nightsky’s strengths is their unfailing ability to craft intimate scenes with small casts on the gorgeous stage of Vienna Baptist Church. “Collapse” was no exception.
One of NOVA Nightsky’s strengths is their unfailing ability to craft intimate scenes with small casts…’Collapse’ was no exception.
Di Salvo and Kim assembled a cast of heavy hitters, all of whom pulled their weight in this narrative rollercoaster. Hannah Ruth Wellons is excellent as Hannah, a young woman besieged by trauma and guilt. Hannah’s story is the most interesting to watch unfold and her many monologues were beautifully nuanced. Andy Shaw is David, Hannah’s partner in love and anxiety. David is a ticking time bomb and Shaw plays him with the heartbreaking desperation of a fish out of water, gasping for air. We know David is going to unravel completely, but we just don’t know how or where. Rob Gorman is Ted, a creep with a heart of gold who delivers the best speech in the show under questionable circumstances. His scene in the café with Hannah burned with real stakes and a question: should we take good advice if the giver may not be so good?
Adding to the many stressors in David and Hannah’s lives is Hannah’s sister, Susan, played by Hayls Katarina Meyer. One of the brilliant facets of Susan’s character is her need to unapologetically live her truth. Though Hannah and David may write off Susan’s personality as simply quirky, it is imperative that the audience not do so. Susan adds something to the play that Hannah and David so desperately need—agency. Meyer as Susan is a comedic firecracker, certainly, but it’s more than that. Meyer plays Susan completely straight and has made the part entirely her own. Whether it’s her pink scrunchy, plushies, moose-shaped bag stuffed with God-knows-what or simply Meyer’s good acting, Di Salvo’s vision shone through and Susan is a true bright spot in “Collapse.”
As NOVA Nightsky Theater’s patrons well know, the company’s sets are always top notch. Every prop and piece of set dressing is sourced by the production team and actors. Technical director, Adam Ressa, along with assistant technical director, Noelani Stevenson, crafted small pockets of magic with every scene change. The living room was particularly lovely, complete with a lifeless, brown plant into which David compulsively empties his beer bottles. Angling the couch was smart and allowed for more dynamic staging, the strongest of which culminated in David stabbing Hannah’s backside with a needle. Some of the action was lost upstage when Susan arrived so it would’ve been nice to see Hannah take David aside downstage right rather than behind the couch. It looked organic, but we lost some information because Susan’s couch business was just too darn funny.
The showstopper piece was the hyper-realistic bridge set constructed with the type of finesse unique to NOVA Nightsky. This piece, along with Ressa and Stevenson’s blue tinged lighting design, made for a striking visual as David finally confronts his fears. “Collapse” was a deceptively large undertaking for such a small company and NOVA Nightsky Theater pulled it off with ease. Which a new home at Vienna Baptist Church, a stellar production team and a thirst for excellence, the smallest community theater company in the DMV is quickly establishing itself as the one to watch.
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
“Collapse” runs through November 11, 2023 presented by NOVA Nightsky Theater at Vienna Baptist Church, 541 Marshall Rd Vienna, VA 22180. For tickets and more information please go online. novanightskytheater.com.