Thursday, May 6, 2010

Terrorism every man's problem in one man show

There’s an eerie case of life imitating art at The Common Air a one-man show now underway at the Bleeker Street Theater in New York’s Greenwich Village.
On April 30th, I was invited by the actor, Alex Lyras to attend the play which ends in a dramatic act of terrorism by a young Arab American. Twenty-four hours later and just two miles away, a young Pakistani man tried something similar, parking an SUV with a homemade bomb on a busy New York City street.

The Common Air is set in an airport where, through the versatile performance of Mr. Lyras, we come to know a number of travelers all of whom are being inconvenienced by flight delays. Half -heartedly they wonder about the source of the problem, but save all serious thought for their own introspection. This one is trying to reconnect with an old lover. That one worries about missing an important gig. One traveler passes time trying to score with the cocktail waitress while another rages over custody of his video-game-playing son.
A one-man show is by design a series of soliloquies, but here the technique does double duty, both advancing the plot and enhancing the writers’ goal of focusing on the folly of self-obsession in an age of globalization.
“We have all this technology at our finger tips, and yet we are tweeting about meaningless things,” Mr. Lyras wrote to me after the attempted car bombing in Times Square. “When an incident like Saturday happens, it shifts the zeitgeist. People start to realize they have a personal responsibility in all that is happening in our country and yes, the world.”
Up against the Faisal Shahzads and the Timothy McVeighs against the take-no-prisoners “true believers” of every stripe, Mr. Lyras and the play’s co-writer, Robert McCaskill are suggesting society has the most to fear from the complacency of its citizens.
He thinks this act will "give my life meaning", Mr. Lyras says of the fictionalized terrorist he has created in The Common Air and of the real terror suspect, Faisal Shahzad as well.
The Common Air doesn’t glorify violence it stigmatizes indifference in a well-executed argument that’s worth watching.
The Common Air runs Wednesday through Sunday through June at the Bleeker Street Theater, 45 Bleecker St. New York, NY 10012 or go to for details.

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