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LA Theater Review


The hippocampus is an odd setting for a play, but it works for writer-director Shervin Youssefian's two-act dark comedy. The two-hour production needs editing and faster pacing, but it offers plenty of thought-provoking material, most of it delivered by Kris Kjornes, who gives an eccentric, memorable performance.

The hippocampus in question belongs to Lydia, whom we hear but never see. Instead, the action takes place with thoughts and emotions in her head. Peter (Gavin Perry), or rather Lydia's thoughts about Peter, is locked in battle with The Black Lump (Kjornes). The thought of Peter wants Lydia to keep dating the real Peter, while the Lump grows through the negative emotions Lydia feels. The second act introduces other fleeting thoughts in Lydia's head—most old boyfriends—all of whom arrive to see the result of Lydia's ongoing depression.

Youssefian's script is part basic existential debate about reality and part self-help speak from the book "I Hate You, Don't Leave Me." Both are interesting for the first act but become repetitive before the climax. Perry's portrayal of Peter is over-the-top to the point of ridiculous, which helps inject comedy into the melodrama. But it's Kjornes who steals the scenes. He mixes a cynical tone and wild-eye stares with a subtle sense of vulnerability, so he's scary and sympathetic. The additional characters say little and add nothing to the plot, and Youssefian's blocking gets muddled, even on an almost bare stage, in scenes involving the entire cast. But moments of the first act are riveting. One note of warning: The curtain time is 7:30 p.m., but opening night began 35 minutes late.

Presented by and at the Whitefire Theatre, 3500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Sept. 11-Oct. 3. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (818) 519-6342.

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