40something David Rosely lies comatose as his identical twin Grant and fiancée Kate find themselves in head-to-head combat over his right to live or die. If this sounds more like a Lifetime Original Movie than the year’s most spectacular one-man tour-de-force, think again. Solo-performance star Alex Lyras and his co-writing partner Robert McCaskill are back in Hollywood with their latest collaboration, the absolutely thrilling Plasticity, the very definition of must-see theater.
The duo’s previous collaboration, The Common Air, had Lyras playing six distinctive characters. Nine years later, Plasticity doubles that number, its solo star taking centerstage not only as Daniel and Grant but (among others) as Grant’s Indian neurosurgeon, Kate’s psychotherapist, a pair of opposing his-and-her lawyers, a poetry-slamming orderly, a Hispanic male nurse, and (on video) the disgraced neurologist whom Grant seeks out for a second, less rosy opinion.
Exactly whose right is it to make life-and-death decisions when a comatose patient’s wishes are less than clear? At what point can or should hope be abandoned? And perhaps most significantly, does a seemingly irreparably damaged brain have the plasticity to repair itself?
Under McCaskill’s razor-sharp direction, Lyras positively dazzles in one minutely detailed, immediately identifiable character after another, at times conversing in rapid-fire back-and-forth exchanges and even, occasionally, playing one character live opposite another on video.
Still, if there’s anything that sets Plasticity apart, not just from The Common Air but from just about anything you or I have ever seen onstage (and certainly never in a theater as matchbox-sized as the Hudson Guild), it is its truly incredible production design, 3D effects achieved by having Lyros perform behind transparent scrims that have him literally surrounded by Corwin Evans’s video projections, edited by Peter Chakos into ninety nonstop minutes of theatrical wizardry enhanced by Matt Richter’s dramatic lighting and Ken Rich’s edgy, electrifying original score, all of the above performed on Richter’s ingenious set.
Not only do Evans’s videos take us from mountaintop to ambulance interior to hospital hallway to slam poetry club to doctor’s office to deep down beneath the Mexican seas, they allow us entry into Daniel’s comatose brain in a mind-boggling series of rapid-fire images both animated and real.
Solo performances may be a Hollywood dime a dozen, particularly when Fringe Festival month rolls around with every Tom, Dick, and Harriet seeming to have his or her navel-gazing autobiographical tale to tell.
Bona fide one-person plays are far rarer. Shirley Valentine is one, Buyer & Cellar is another, and like those two, Plasticity could just as easily work as a multi-actor tale.
Factor in the year’s most stunning sound-and-light design and trust me. The astonishing Plasticity is in a class all by itself.
Additional program credits are shared by Tim Arnold, Peter Chakos, Istros Media, Dean Lyras, Celia Schaefer, Jonathan Schell, Matthew Schiffman, and Christian Xenos.
Hudson Guild Theatre , 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. Through April 10. Mondays and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 7:00. (No Saturday performances after March 12.) Reservations: 323 960-7787
January 30, 2017
Photos: Jessica Sherman