Set against the firmament of Stephen Giffords minimalist set, this West Coast premiere of Christopher Durangs exploration of the afterlife begins with chunks of NASAs Skylab falling from the sky and Chicken Little scurrying across the stage to sound the alarm. After the dust has settled, Veronica (Kelly Lloyd) finds herself dead and in a liminal place called bardo. Here, shes greeted by Maryamma (Pia Ambardar), a loose representation of Hindu spirituality, who expounds on the cycle of life, death and reincarnation and insists upon calling her Miss Witherspoon. Much against her will, Miss Witherspoon is reincarnated a number of times, coming back as a baby to two radically different families, as well as a dog. During each reincarnation, Miss Witherspoon commits suicide because she wants to be unplugged and cant believe that this [life] goes on forever. Nonetheless, Maryamma patiently guides Witherspoon toward true wisdom, receiving assistance from a black female Jesus (LeShay Tomlinson), as well as a Wise Man (Andrew Morris), who resembles Gandalf. Lloyd navigates her character transitions brilliantly and is utterly convincing in each. Ambardar, despite slipping in and out of her Indian accent, has great energy and provides much of the comedy in the piece. Joel Swetows direction sets the appropriately outrageous tone for a Durang play, and EB Brooks costumes and Suzy Starlings props bring its absurdity to life. El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through December 14. (323) 460-4443.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Nov. 1. Continues through Dec. 14, 2008
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