Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006 | Sometimes the tiniest shift in a person’s perception or the smallest change in someone’s reaction can alter the course of one’s life with grand proportions.

That’s one of many viewpoints you can derive from “Life X 3,” the latest production at Coronado’s Lamb’s Players Theatre. The play, by Yasmina Reza (who also wrote ART) and directed by LPT staffer Deborah Gilmour-Smyth, has an experimental vibe that strikes you from the get-go.

Space-age music plays loudly while a backdrop displays a large shot of earth from space. Constellations and milky ways are projected onto the floor. Starlights twinkle and then the lights come up to reveal a living room set atop a sphere on center stage.

It could almost be considered hokey; you could sense the uncertainty of the audience watching a rolling earth on a projection screen to the tune of Bowie’s “Major Tom.”

But the subject is intriguing. Reza’s play examines mood, reactions, decisions and tensions by demonstrating two couples in the same situation, three times. There is no intermission, which would only break up the effect of starting a play over and over again. The program lists each setting and time as “One,” “Two” and “Three.”

Husband and wife Sonia and Henry are interrupted by Henry’s colleague and his wife for a dinner party a day too early. This sets the framework for the story. Sprinkle in some tensions: Sonia and Hubert’s obvious, unspoken attraction, Henry’s neurotic fears of failure and of success and Inez’ often belittling treatment by her husband. Just as the play nears a climactic point, it starts again from the beginning.

It’s compelling, the story components remain the same but the wonder is in how nuances in characters or their perceptions and reactions change the story completely each time.

The terrific performances by the cast are captivating and keep Reza’s work from seeming too new-age or gimmicky (think “Groundhog Day”) and get you thinking about the concept of the same moment, altered.

Henry (Lance Arthur Smith) is annoyingly neurotic in the first section, by the end of the piece he’s nearing breakdown. Part two begins and the change in Henry is astonishing. Smith subtly tweaks his mannerisms, never going over the top which would mar the impact. Sonia (Colleen Kollar) morphs subtly too, colder and independent in One, possibly adulterous in Two. Engaging to watch and always detailed down to facial expressions, Kollar continues to shine at LPT.

Playing the part of egotistical, calculating Hubert with perfection, Robert Smyth draws your attention in, shifting mannerisms (even the way Hubert eats Cheez-its) easily. Glynn Bedington, as Hubert’s long-suffering wife Inez, has a difficult role. Obsessive and insecure in One, she artfully handles the play’s sweetest speech about man’s role in the universe in Three. And she plays drunk terrifically; a little slurry, a little sad.

“Life X 3” uses astrophysics and the cosmos as a larger scope for examining human relationships. I think each audience member probably walked out of LPT with a very different perception of the production; but I know it’s something worth talking about.

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