by Harker Jones

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 2, 2017


The world premiere of co-writers Alex Lyras and Robert McCaskill's mind-blowing new play, "Plasticity," is a rich, if somewhat flawed, experience, unlike most stage, shows you're likely to find.

Lyras plays twin brothers David, who lies in a coma after suffering an aneurysm in a theater, and Grant, who struggles with Katie, David's girlfriend, on whether to pull the plug on his brother. Also, Lyras plays every single other role, sometimes even interacting with himself due to cutting-edge videos and graphics projected toward the stage, which represent the snapping synapses of David's mind as his brain struggles to rewire and heal itself (brain plasticity).

With their own harrowing experiences with loved ones in the intensive care unit, Lyras and McCaskill saw how stressful such life-and-death experiences could be and how differently each person handled that stress. Inspired, they extensively researched neuroscience and the theory of brain plasticity, interviewing scientists and doctors before populating their script with so many characters, so many ideas and so many takes on human consciousness.

It's an ambitious undertaking, and while it sounds pretentious, it isn't so much as it is effective. Despite the science involved in the story and the production, the meditation on death and life and the line in between couldn't be more personal or intimate especially in a theater as small as the Hudson Guild Theatre. With the visual projections even closer than Lyras is on stage, the audience almost feels part of Grant's world and David's subconscious.

Lyras, with McCaskill, has created a daunting task for himself: saddled with playing numerous characters -- including an Indian doctor, a spoken word poet and a Jewish lawyer -- with different accents, lifestyles and wardrobes, sometimes opposite himself in the same scene, delivering copious exposition and dialogue, it's a cumbersome balance.

The material seems a little much for him at times, with brief stumbles as he sought the right words. It's not easy material, being existential and thought-provoking, which makes it a little clunky sometimes. With no real props or sets (aside from the video screens), he also has little to work with, which is a challenge for any actor. Overall, though, he acquits himself well, juggling countless character changes fluidly for the most part.

Director McCaskill makes fantastic use of the small space of the stage, with the creative and compelling videos by visual artist Corwin Evans and Emmy-winning (three times for "The Big Bang Theory"!) editor Peter Chakos adding a fitting coldness -- or at least distance -- to the proceedings (think a Nine Inch Nails video meets "1984"). The images are chilling and masterful. The score by Grammy nominee Ken Rich is a perfect complement to the video and the tone of the production.

"Plasticity" is a tour de force, using minimal production to take us deep into both one man's limitless subconscious as well as the minds and lives of the people who love him. It may be a little bit more than the creators could handle, but only by a tiny stretch. This experimental tour de force must be seen to be believed. The experience will leave you thinking and moved.

"Plasticity" runs through May 22 at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90038. For tickets or information, call 323-960-7787 or visit