[THEATER] Plasticity Explores the Mystery of Consciousness

Alex Lyras as Grant Rosely in “Plasticity.” Photo Credit: Jessica Sherman

Plasticity at the Hudson Guild Theatre explores the world of neuroscience and explores the relatively new concept of brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire and heal itself.

Previously it was thought that brain cells, once dead, could not be regenerated. Now scientists believe that the brain can relocate functions to another area or neural network.

The story is loosely based on the actual case of a young man from Massachusetts who woke up after spending 19 years in a coma.

As the play begins, we see a daredevil hiker attempting to scale a mountainside. In the next scene he is in an ICU unit.

The hiking scene is revealed to be a vision of David Rosely, who has had a brain aneurysm and is in a deep coma. Visual images from multiple projectors create 3D effects projected against the backdrop.

A transparent scrim takes the audience into David’s earlier life and mind as he tries to figure out what has happened. Projections on the scrim also show the audience the passage of time while he lies in the coma.

In a stunning one-person performance, actor and co-writer Alex Lyras creates a myriad of characters—doctors, a hip hop nurse, a psychoanalyst, attorneys and most notably David’s twin brother Grant who has to decide when to take David off life support.

Grant, a greedy, self-centered businessman, is the character who holds the plot together. Kate, David’s fiancée, never appears, but makes her viewpoint known through Grant’s at times fractious one-sided conversations with her. She has different ideas as to David’s care.

Lyras co-wrote the play with director Robert McCaskill. The two did extensive research and consulted with doctors and scientists to create the script.

Video and sound design by Corwin Evans and sound by two-time Grammy Award-nominated composer and sound designer Ken Rich make possible the many scene changes which allow the story to unfold.

It takes an unusual one-person play to wow me, but I was impressed by Lyras’ performance as he creates the circle of professionals and family members who hover over David’s inert body.

At times, however, I felt that there were too many characters giving their input. While they gave the actor a chance to show his ability to quickly change roles, they seemed at times superfluous to the plot.

Although the recreation of an end-of-life situation is grim, there is also a lot of offbeat humor to lighten the otherwise heavy subject. I found the play to be profound and intellectually stimulating.

Plasticity at the Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Runs through March 13th, Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 7 p.m., $30 (323) 960-7787 or www.plasticitytheplay.com

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