By SHILANDA WOOLRIDGE

Love doesn’t conquer all.  Sometimes it gets crushed under the boots of fear and self-preservation

Brian Thorstenson’s world premiere of his play Over the Mountain at Brava takes places in a totalitarian America where no one knows who to trust. Dodging bombs and ducking bursts of occasional crossfire in the ongoing civil war is routine.

Anne Darragh, Lauri Smith, photo credit: DavidAllenStudio.com

Anne Darragh, Lauri Smith, photo credit: DavidAllenStudio.com

The story revolves around two sisters whose rebelliousness against this reality are polar opposites. Jo (Lauri Smith) literally runs for the hills to their childhood cabin and operates it as a way station for refugees fleeing their city under siege.

Hannah (Anne Darragh) stays behind to become an insurgent, wielding her pen as a poetic sword. The government responds by banning her book and seeking her head.

Darragh is resplendent as Hannah and plays her with pluck. Hannah’s dedication to truth, justice and what used to be the American way is so strong that it supercedes even her common sense.

Jeffrey Adams, Michael Heriford, photo credit: DavidAllenStudio.com

Jeffrey Adams, Michael Heriford, photo credit: DavidAllenStudio.com

On the other side of the fence are Horn (Jeffrey Adams) and Lenny (Michael Heriford), two old friends who show up at the office to perform the humdrum task of collating files of traitors. Their odd-couple antics and constant bickering, and the banality of their day job, belies the power of life and death they wield.

The world of Over the Mountain is beautifully framed by Jerrold Enos’ multilayered stage design flanked with a mercurial sky. The action is brought right to the audience in two additional areas offstage. The clever staging allows for a split screen technique that lets the audience see simultaneous scenes and the characters to interact across a space-time continuum. Lorna Albarillo’s sound design brings the bucolic country setting of the cabin to life.

Despite the kinetic performances, the acting was stilted at times. It felt like the actors were coming at us full force, but pulled back too soon. Theatergoers expect and relish full contact.

Meklit Hadero’s warm, honey-coated vocals ushered in the show and provided a sharp contrast to the sour realities of the characters’ lives. Hadero was so delightful that her presence was missed when the play commenced without a second round after intermission.

Over the Mountain is a thought-provoking piece that leaves the theatergoer with more questions than answers—a good thing in my book. During the eight years of an Orwellian Bush administration, many wondered what they would do if the gloves came off and kangaroo courts took over. This play lets viewers explore choices and a reality that we hopefully never have to face.

Over the Mountain
Through April 25. $20-$35. Brava Theater, 2781 24th St. 415-641-7657. www.brava.org