The Common Air

Though it sometimes seems that all solo performances are autobiographical, solipsistic, or both, this piece, written by Alex Lyras and Robert McCaskill and performed by Lyras, reveals a larger ambition and casts a wider net. Lyras plays six richly varied characters, all stranded for hours at an urban airport during a possible terrorist incident.

We first meet an Iraqi immigrant, working as a taxi driver, as he attempts to deliver his passenger to the airport. He's a likable, talkative, exuberant fellow who loves America and has a penchant for dancing in the street when caught in traffic jams. Next we encounter a businessman, a wheeler-dealer who waits out the delay in the airport cocktail lounge, flirting with the waitress and expounding his philosophy. We must define ourselves, he insists, and not allow ourselves to be defined by the way others see us. This is welcome news to his companion, an ambitious disc jockey, who's trying to still twinges of conscience about a piece of music by another musician that he's claimed as his own. There's also a gay man, trying to shake off the guilt he feels about abandoning his lover to a gang of gay-bashers, and a philosophy professor who ponders questions of identity while battling his ex-wife (via cell phone) over custody of their son.

The last and most substantial piece involves a young man, born in Iraq but raised in the United States by his father. The young man went back to Iraq to seek his long-lost mother and found himself held hostage for months by Shiite militants. Now he's home again and in the same taxi we saw earlier, telling his story to the cab driver.

Despite the wide array of characters, this is a play, not just a series of monologues. A complex network of ideas and images ties the episodes together, and the characters are developed with subtlety and depth. Lyras captures their essence, along with their individual voices, quirks, and accents. The wonderful original score and sound design, by Ken Rich, seem to grow organically out of the play, punctuating it with precision and sensitivity.

Presented by SoulArt and Elephant Stageworks at the Lillian Theater, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood. Tue. 8 p.m. (Also Mon. 8 p.m. Nov. 19.) Oct. 23-Jan. 24.