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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Attempts on Her Life
By David Avery
Reviewing a play like Attempts on Her Life also presents a challenging prospect. There is no conventional plot. The play's titular "her" is Anne, or Annie, or Anya (depending on the scene) and is obliquely discussed by the ensemble cast. She has no lines and is described in contradictory ways by characters that have no names. She is presented as victim, pornographer, suicide casualty, racist, object, terrorist, abstract. Blink and you might miss the point of a particular scenario. Lose focus and things quickly become confusing.
There are some common threads that run throughout the show. Terrorism is brought up more than once, though Anne (or Annie, or Anya) is described as both victim and perpetrator. Suicide pops up again and again, and is the subject of a fairly pointed portrayal of an art critic discussion circle. Pornography also seems to be a running theme (one of the scenarios is called "Porno"), and our proximity to the epicenter of the "smut" empire lends some poignancy to the thread.
The format, however, allows for a great deal of interpretation, for both the production and the audience. Maybe I've worked and lived in Los Angeles for too long, but it appeared to me as if most of the scenarios are overlaid with a media theme: workshopping a script, a makeup session, a car commercial, an art review, a Hollywood party. Even the quiet scenarios, like a mother and father discussing Annie (we presume it is their daughter) or a mother-in-law commenting on her son's wife come off like interviews for a "True Hollywood Story" type show.
Reinforcing this thought is the spartan stage design, mostly empty except for various seating implements dangling from interconnected ropes. These seats are lowered, raised, and moved with the various scenarios, perhaps in an attempt to visually represent how most modern media floats through the air in broadcasts or across network and phone wires. Several of the scenarios also use offstage voices to comment or compliment the action.
It is pointless to try and discuss the different scenarios or characters in them with any detail. They alternate between oblique, serious, ironic, and comical, with the pornographic musical and car commercial as standouts. A play like this requires an extremely strong company of actors to convincingly pull it off. The combined company of the Unknown Theater and the Evidence Room do a spectacular job of holding the threads of this play together. It must be very difficult to perform in a play where the relationships between characters and the motivations of characters change every five minutes.
I think co-directors Chris Covics and Bart DeLorenzo attempt here to comment on media, and the different ways a single thing and be portrayed. And why not? In the current age of talking heads endlessly spinning current events, it's a good enough theme as any. In a society when a thing, or an event, a person, can be said to be "black," then looked at a different way and said to be "white," what does that say about the society itself?
Ultimately, I think this production of Attempts on Her Life is pointing out that our perception of something is becoming more important than the thing itself. Which was probably part of Crimp's point in creating this work, so that it can be reinterpreted many times by different groups in many different ways.
For all its difficulties, this play obviously intrigues and challenges adventurous directors, to wit, these links to other productions we'f reviewed Click Attempts on Her Life in London
Click Attempts on Her Life Off-Broadway
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide