A Light in the Dark, Back Door Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Aug 7, $10-15

After premiering his one-man show A Light in the Dark last June in Los Angeles, Ezra LeBank shelved it for a year to complete his thesis. The time spent researching philosophy and theater history was beneficial, and LeBank claims he now holds a more lucid understanding of what he believes to be the purpose of theater.

A series of vignettes, the 75-minute show features 20-odd characters from a U.S. soldier in Iraq to a clown (same difference, you say?), all, naturally, played by LeBank. An ambitious, sometimes clever production, A Light in the Dark is essentially about death. Rather than addressing mortality directly, most of the vignettes rely on the characters' reactions to their own lives. Since LeBank can explain it better than I can, I asked him to.

So, what's up with the death theme?

I use death as a way to be faced with our own limitations. The most basic truth is death. We each have to deal with it eventually. It's not just a common thread between the characters in the play, but the audience as well.

Do you encourage audience participation?

Absolutely. I take time immediately after the show for discussion with the audience because their input is crucial. Silence, too, is an encouraging reaction. The play is not intended to strike you fully until after you leave.

How did you come to write this piece?

I collected simple stories that have touched me in a primitive way. I try to listen to what provokes action and attention in audiences. For instance, theater during the 1930s was so unreal, so exuberant--it was theater that bled on the stage. I want this.

Any advice for incoming audiences?

The play is not intended as entertainment, but as thought-provoking, gut-wrenching theater. I encourage people to come take the risk, knowing they will be faced with their own mortalities. Don't run through the play--let the play run through you.

Who would you rather hang out with: Ben Franklin or Burt Reynolds?

Gandhi.