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Paula Christensen and Riley Neldam in Stefanie Zadravec's 'Colony Collapse' at The Theatre @ Boston Court (photo by Ed Krieger)
Paula Christensen and Riley Neldam in Stefanie Zadravec’s ‘Colony Collapse’ at The Theatre @ Boston Court (photo by Ed Krieger)

Colony Collapse

Reviewed by Vanessa Cate
The Theatre @ Boston Court
Through March 20


In Stefanie Zadravec’s world premiere play, Colony Collapse, Jason (Riley Neldam) is an 18 year old boy who can’t stand living with his junkie mother Nicky (Paula Christensen) any longer. So he sets out to find his estranged father Mark (Chris Conner) and stepmother Julia (Sally Hughs), who are seeking their own redemption on an apple orchard.

The complex and brutal dynamics of this highly dysfunctional yet entirely relatable family unfold beautifully. The realism of the main characters’ strife finds a lovely counterpoint in the theatricality of a Greek chorus of sorts — a collection of mourning parents who support the main story, along with the poetic insight delivered by an omniscient missing young lady, referred to only as “the girl” (Emily James).

On an academic level, the show is elegant and satisfying. Zadravec has thoughtfully woven together Greek tragedy, modern family drama, and a meditation on family and the importance of the individual. The play feels almost like a mash-up of Oedipus, Netflix’s Making A Murderer, and a Sam Shepard play.

The ensemble is potent. Christensen nearly steals the show as meth head mother Nicky, a woman both pathetically sickly and a dangerous spitfire. As Jason, the young protagonist who must fight an uphill battle against imperfect parenting (a gross understatement), Neldam is at once sympathetic, seductive, and as grating on the nerves as only an angst-ridden teen can be.

Direction by Jessica Kubzansky is at times so gritty it seems to be mired in dirt, while at other times it defies gravity itself. A dream-like set by Susan Gratch, lighting by Karyn Lawrence, and costumes by Garry Lennon add complementary to a thoughtful theatrical experience.

The Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; (additional performance Wed. March 16); through March 20. (626) 683-6883 or Running time: approximately 2 hours 25 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.