Liz Rebert and Paul Kampf in '11,September.' Photo by Heather Kampf.
Fortunately, Breadline Productions' world premiere of "11, September," doesn't leave you with a sopping-wet tissue or flaming temper. In fact, mathematician Martin Healy (Paul Kampf, who also wrote the script) opens the play with a line weighted with such reverential somberness the theatre takes on an air reminiscent of a church. "I am guilty of an equally heinous crime- silence," he tells the attendees of a lecture on the statistics of 9/11 that allude to governmental involvement.
While that may be true of Healy, Kampf needs to plead guilty to exactly the opposite. "11, September" is a grab bag of "heinous crimes." Reach your hand in, and you might get incest! Abuse! Infidelity! Invasion of privacy! Murder! Breaking and entering! Homicide! Suicide! Step right up, "11, September" wants you all to walk away with a "prize."
Kampf explains this all-inclusive mentality by defining theatre as a "heightened sense of reality where the audience must be presented with the extreme in order to examine their own lives." Yet an audience can only absorb so much shock before it becomes desensitized. That's precisely the effect in "11, September." Following one of the many twists in Act II, murmurs questioning what exactly was being referenced onstage could be heard in the rows surrounding me.
Strangely enough, Kampf seems awkward in the role he presumably wrote for himself. Liz Rebert as Angela Madison fares a little better, but the lack of chemistry between the two actors casts a shadow of doubt over their chance meeting, the event on which the entire play hinges. Worse yet (though perhaps intentionally), this void significantly ups the "ick" factor of their affair.
Thanks to Chris Cash's original score, the ambience matches the script, at turns eerie and nostalgic. Every twinkling and delicate entrance of music feels as if someone is lifting the top of an old-fashioned music box, complete with twirling plastic ballerina.
Leaving its home of 15 years, Chicago, Breadline Productions makes its first foray into the Los Angeles theatre scene with this premiere. The packing and moving process includes ditching all things extraneous. After they settle in, maybe they'll apply that same principle to "11, September."
Through February 7
Thursday/Friday/Saturday, 8PM; Sunday, 7PM
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.