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THEATER | REVIEW

An eyewitness to 9/11 tells her story onstage

A tourist from L.A. found herself across the street from ground zero.

August 08, 2003|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

In the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2001, a giddy tourist finally fell asleep in her room at the Millenium Hilton Hotel in Lower Manhattan. She awoke to find that she had a chillingly up-close view of what was taking place across the street at the World Trade Center towers.

In "My September," Aliza, who uses only her first name, relives the events that took her from Los Angeles to New York and made her an eyewitness to history. Dressed in simple black and performing at Third Stage in Burbank on an almost-bare playing area, the 33-year-old performer narrates her story and portrays various people along the way.

Aliza traveled to New York to donate eggs so that her mother and her mother's younger husband could have a child of their own. This alone is an amazing story, filled with mortifying pelvic examinations and scary needles.

Then Aliza falls asleep in her hotel room, and in the darkness we hear the howl of jet engines and an explosion. She throws open her curtains and grabs a camera to look through its telephoto lens. She sees people waving shirts from upper floors. They begin jumping. Silently, she traces a person's descent with a finger, then another.

Told to evacuate the hotel, she finds herself in Battery Park when the first building falls. The resulting blast of ash causes her to curl up on the ground while trying to filter her breathing through the grass. "It's so quiet. It's almost peaceful. I wonder if I'm going to die here?" she asks herself in the nicely understated script, which she co-wrote with Christopher Durand, who also directs.

Too many of the character portrayals seem cartoonish, while other key figures are either never re-created (the young Mormon missionaries who help her out of Lower Manhattan) or are underdeveloped (her mother). Still, this is an extraordinary story, told with gentle humor and gratefulness for the goodwill experienced along the way.

*

'My September'

Where: Third Stage, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.

Ends: Aug. 16

Price: $10

Contact: (818) 842-4755

Running time: 50 minutes

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