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Theater review: '11, September' at the Odyssey Theatre

January 14, 2010 |  7:30 pm

400.11 September_1  "I am guilty of an equally horrific crime: silence." That's a key point from the framing device of "11, September," where a statistician addresses a 2009 conference on the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. However, playwright-actor Paul Kampf's two-handed examination of random destiny and personal denial promises a more profound study than it can quite deliver.
 
The local debut of Chicago offshoot Breadline Productions, "September" follows London-dwelling mathematician Martin (Kampf) and Angela (Liz Rebert), a waitress with whom he hooks up at the outset. Each has deep-seated covert damage, neither is exactly honest about their motives, and the narrative turns on their palpably ambiguous chemistry.
 
Kampf, who conveys a focused sensitivity that masks unsettling power, and Rebert, a spikier junior edition of Mary-Louise Parker, play this aspect to the hilt under Gita Donovan's detailed direction. There are other assets, particularly designer James Spencer's cluttered apartment set and composer Chris Cash's interstitial music, and it's hardly an inconsiderable production.
 
Still, for all author Kampf's skills at silence-laden dialogue, Act 1 closes on a whopping coincidence that sends everything spinning into territory far less intriguing and enigmatic than what preceded it. As revelations continue to emerge, "September" moves from striking chaos theory corollary to florid psychosexual melodrama.

While there's surface logic afoot, the Big Picture parallels choke in a tangled plot that risks exploiting rather than exploring 9-11. The ending's citation of factual anomalies is arresting but doesn't really integrate with the tragic resolution. "11, September" is a respectable effort but also a missed opportunity.

– David C. Nichols

"11, September," Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 7. $30. Pay what you can, Sunday, Jan. 17. (3100 477-2055 x2 or www.11SeptemberPlay.info). Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: Liz Rebert and Paul Kampf. Credit: Heather Kampf.


 
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