Backstage Logo

Off Broadway February 14, 2002
Reviewed By Esther Tolkoff

In Alex Lyras' one-man show (written with Robert McCaskill, who also directed), Lyras brings four characters to life. One, Jonathan, serves as a quasi-narrator who ties the others' stories together after he serendipitously stumbles upon them on a Manhattan street during a raging snowstorm (well-evoked by lighting designer Jason Livingston and sound designer Ken Rich).

Jonathan's fluke encounter with these men, and with homeless men huddled in the cartons he was gathering to pack his belongings, brings into focus his "urban odyssey" for meaning in our out-of-kilter world. Jonathan explains that "ekstasis" means outside of a stable state. Hence, in his anxiety, "I am in ecstasy," he notes with irony. This is one of many references to Greek culture and Lyras' heritage (all the women have Greek names; Penelope is the odyssey-taker's ex-girlfriend), an interesting touch.

Lyras' acting craft is finely honed. In each monologue, he convincingly becomes the character, changing his voice, stance, look, and movement with great attention to detail. There is Theo, a compulsive gambler, full of bravado and rationalizations, bragging to the bartender and a casino acquaintance and pleading by phone with his wife. Isaac, a young, just-laid-off Web designer, is literally caught up in a series of telephone fights with his girlfriend, well choreographed in a slapstick battle between Isaac's clothing and the phone cord. The Nomad is a shady lawyer whose full "evilness" does not emerge until the end of his seemingly casual chitchat with a pool-hall buddy.

As with Woody Allen's running persona, Jonathan's philosophizing, while genuine throughout, can get a tad too cerebral. But overall, Lyras engages us successfully and impressively.
(back to the top)