Attempts On Her Life
by Willard Manus
First performed at London's Royal Court Theater in 1997, ATTEMPTS ON HER LIFE, Martin Crimp's post-modern theatrical flight of fancy, has been translated into twenty languages and has won critical plaudits--and some howls of outrage--over the last ten years. Now Los Angeles has caught up with ATTEMPTS, thanks to a gutsy co-production of the play by Evidence Room and Unknown Theater.
ATTEMPTS is neither easy to perform nor describe. Crimp eschews linear, traditional playwriting, offering instead what he calls seventeen scenarios for the theatre in which there is no specified location or suggestion for a given situation. "Speeches are specified, but the number of characters within the scenarios are not," explains dramaturg Art Horowitz in a program note. "It is to be left to the directors, designers and actors to determine the given circumstances. And it is left to the audience to resolve the mysteries of who and what is going on."
If there is a thread to any of this, it concerns a dead woman named Anne (also Anya, Annie, Anny and Anissa) who may or may not have been a real person--Crimp seems to be asking whether any of us can truly know another human being. To be sure, we have an image of each other, but it has probably been formed for the wrong or contradictory reasons, owing to our lifelong exposure to psychobabble, pop songs, media manipulation, technological intrusions (cell phones, text-messaging), etc.
Each of the play's scenes approaches Anne from a different angle, mixing satire, parody, spurts of drama, sinister political interrogation, dance numbers, racist rants, random menace and violence in a potent (and oft-puzzling) theatrical stew. The staging by Chric Covics and Bart DeLorenzo (artistic directors of the two producing companies) is equally bizarre and surrealistic--chairs and tables fly, actors swoop in and out wearing outrageous costumes, lights flare, then fizzle, then flare up again. It's all quite mad, but then so is our world, implies the playwright, who can't seem to make any more sense of it than we can.
Performed by an ensemble of seventeen gifted actors who have been well supported by the production team (Ann Closs-Farley, costumes; Tony Mulanix, lighting; John Ballinger & Brenda Varda, music), ATTEMPTS ON HER LIFE stands out as one of the most original and challenging plays Los Angeles has ever seen.
Unknown Theatre, 1110 N. Seward St., Hollywood. Call 323-466-7781 or visit unknowntheater.com