Total Rating: 
January 27, 2017
January 28, 2017
March 13, 2017
Los Angeles
Alex Lyras & Robert McCaskill
Theater Type: 
Hudson Guild Theater
Theater Address: 
6539 Santa Monica Boulevard

Hats off to Alex Lyras, Robert McCaskill and the creative team behind the world-premiere production of Plasticity, which just opened at the Hudson Guild Theater. What they have achieved with this solo play is nothing short of miraculous.

Lyras and McCaskill have collaborated on many previous stage and film projects, both in L.A. and New York; that the relationship is a fruitful one is evidenced by the brilliance of this work, a play and a production that succeeds — nay, dazzles — on many different levels.

Let’s start with the writing. Plasticity is about a man, David Rosely, who is in a coma caused by an embolism. As David lies unconscious in a hospital bed, his family, friends, fiancee and doctors hover over him, arguing over his fate. To pull the plug or not is the question. Moral, ethical and neuro-scientific issues come into play here, in a dramatic and stressful way owing to the life and death urgency.

Plasticity’s text captures all of these complexities in a masterful way, with Lyras playing a host of different characters, switching voices and viewpoints in a twinkling. His tour de force performance is both astounding and memorable. Lyras is greatly aided by the video and digital projections (plus psychedelic music & sound) which represent the activities in David’s mind. The use of a scrim and upstage cyclorama help to create an effect not unlike that of a 3D movie.

The main conflict in the piece is between David’s brother and his fiancee; the former believes that it would be more merciful to let the comatose David die a peaceful death; the latter fights like a banshee to keep him alive, insisting that he will somehow emerge from his coma one day. Various doctors weigh in on the argument, one of whom in particular feels that some of the latest developments in neuroscience — namely pacemaker-like Deep Brain Stimulation — could help the neurons and synapses in David’s brain to rewire themselves, allowing the circuitry to become malleable to changes, become functional again (hence the “plasticity” of the play’s title).

It would be wrong to give away the ending of Plasticity; suffice to say that it is as satisfying as it is surprising. Remarkable in the way it takes an audience into the very depths of human consciousness, this is one of the finest small-theatre productions L.A. has ever seen.

Alex Lyras
Music: Ken Rich; Video: Corwin Evans; Lighting & Sound: Matt Richter
Willard Manus
Date Reviewed: 
January 2017