In his intellectually challenging solo show, writer-performer Gordon James speed-depicts 17 vivid characters in an hour and 15 minutes. Sometimes switching from role to role in midgesture, James is, at one moment, a sexy Brooklyn hoochie vowing to seduce audience members with her sultry wiles. The next, he’s a drunken old nut case on the subway threatening harm to a couple necking across the train aisle. In director Maurice Jamal’s brisk and intimate staging, James’ underlying concept is that the actor becomes “possessed” by 17 “ghosts,” all of whom express themselves through Beat poetry (clearly the lingua franca of the afterlife). Although the result occasionally threatens to devolve into Sybil Goes to the Open Mike, the poetry allows these vignettes to be executed in a compressed language, which creates great emotional intensity and heightened realism. A scene in which James turns into a sexy gal who coldly announces she simply doesn’t love her boyfriend as much as he loves her is powerful — and so is a more sweetly sentimental moment in which James plays a little boy offering unconditional love to his mother. While we wish that some of the characters were given a stronger narrative context, it’s hard not to be impressed by the show’s raw energy and passion.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: June 6. Continues through July 12, 2008

LA Weekly