"AN ACTOR WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES"
by Ed Buroughs
There must be a real Alex Lyras. It's just hard to figure out who he might
be. As the author of three plays, he has created 16 sharply different people
who take the stage by themselves and deliver soul-revealing monologues,
unaware of just how much they are exposing. As an actor, Lyras has played
most of them. Since January, he has been transforming into four in his
latest play, "Unequalibrium," at the Gene Frankel Theater in the East
"I hear people monologue and listen," explains Lyras, a 1988 graduate of
Scarsdale High School. "While I'm bartending, selling Web sites on the
phone, during church services when you're not supposed to talk -- I hear
people monologue." He then uses what he hears to create fictional people
that you think you know.
In this play, he becomes in turn Jonathan, a melancholy young science
teacher about to leave Manhattan; Theo, a married plumbing supplier who
strikes it rich in Atlantic City, Isaac, an unemployed Web page designer at
a loss in dealing with his mood-swinging girlfriend; and Manny, a lawyer who
finds the law an inconvenience. Isaac, Lyras says, was based on an incident
in a bar.
"I heard a kid on the phone say loudly in frustration 'Why are you torturing
me? Do you want me to come over or not?' And that was it."
At 1 a.m. on a snowy Manhattan street, after Lyras has introduced the four
men with effective physical, vocal and emotional distinction, their lives
The shockingly effective framework that sneaks up on the audience was
provided by Lyras' co-author and director Robert McCaskill. Lyras says
McCaskill "has a knack for story. When I had all these people together for
a read-through, he said 'They have to come together.' I thought it was
contrived but he helped weave it together so seamlessly."
Jonathan, the school-teacher, reminisces to his unseen roommate about a long
ago hiking trip when he tripped out on mushrooms and conversed with a brook
trout. (Jason Livingston's lighting design is mesmerizing as colors shift
and snow flakes turn into brick.) Theo is a little more than obnoxious
trying to act the kingpin in a casino bar.
Before attention is lost, along comes Manny. Barely moving on the small
stage as he watches his unseen buddy shoot pool, Manny spins a compelling
story of street life and attitude that is riveting and unexpectedly funny.
"I'm an attractive guy," he begins. As he twists his own story, there's a
dimming awareness that these four men are not going to stay separated on
this stormy night. Malevolence and tension build.
"The thing about a solo show is that it is a very intense involvement with
the other person." says McCaskill about his role as director. "It takes
tremendous courage to put one's self alone on a stage, presenting material
that is a reflection of one's own life and sensibility. The director must
recognize the risk and do everything possible to match it."
Another influence in Lyras' writing is ancient Greek. "I am a pure-bred
Greek," he says. "I am also a philosophy student and an amateur classicist.
I love everything ancient. "If I could go back in time I would almost definitely go back to the premiere of
the 'Orestia.' These are plays that influence all drama. I pay my respects
and steal whatever I can."
The appreciation of the classics and the links with his hometown friends may
reveal the real Alex Lyras. That, and the fact that he seems to thrive on
his chosen work.
"A director must always ask himself how hard he can push an actor," says
McCaskill. "With Alex the answer is always to up the challenge. Make it
harder for him and he will rise to the occasion."
In multiple parts.
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