Theater review: ‘Mysterious Skin’ at East West Players


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It’s not outer space but inner demons that menace in “Mysterious Skin,” the dark drama now staged by East West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theater. Nerdy Brian (Scott Keiji Takeda) believes he was abducted by aliens at the age of 8, an event somehow tied to Neil (David Huynh), a former Little League teammate turned hustler. As Brian puts together the broken clues of his life, he begins to wonder whether he was probed by space creatures or experienced a close encounter of a more earthly kind.

Gregg Araki filmed Scott Heim’s cult novel in 2004 to some acclaim, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil. This East West Players stage production captures a certain eerie vibe, enhanced by John Zalewski’s sound design and Alan E. Muraoka’s set, a chain link fence behind which looms a massive blue moon. But while Prince Gomolvilas’ adaptation contains some strong monologues, his sense of narrative falters. The storytelling is schematic, and Brian’s quest never feels as urgent as Neil’s self-destructive path. It’s a shortcoming that can’t be blamed on Takeda or Huynh, who give performances of affecting vulnerability. In their eyes, the terror and pleasure of contact are very real.


For mature audiences only.

--Charlotte Stoudt

“Mysterious Skin,” Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 10. $25-$35. (213) 625-7000 or Running time: 2 hours.