The cult of personality is an old story, but Grange uses the modern-day premise of shooting a movie to keep his followers feeling that they're a safe distance from what may be really happening. And what is really happening is awfully up-to-date indeed. Kessler's accomplishment here is to link the worst of what 21st century Americans can do to the ancient threads of human nature. Though gut-wrenching, in a twisted sort of way it's comforting to recognize there have always been Granges and there's nothing new under the sun.
The way this incipient cult leader pulls Professor Denton into his orbit is as interesting as everything else Grange does, but having the crusty philosophy teacher join the students in their final scenario is the one thing that doesn't quite sit right. That Denton has suffered his own version of a broken home doesn't seem enough to make this mature fellow susceptible to Grange's dominance the way the students are. (And the fact that Cullen makes us feel sympathy for the unappealing Denton doesn't make it any easier to see him get sucked into the maelstrom.) Fortunately, this flaw doesn't detract much from the power of the piece overall.
Click here for tickets and more information. Collision runs through Feb. 17.