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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Theatre Review: “Attempts on Her Life”

<ect from the Carleton Players ambitious and thought-provoking theater and this term’s production of Attempts on Her Life is exactly that.

The 17 “scenarios for the theater” that compose the show take us at breakneck speed through diverse snapshots of the modern world: a sensual rendezvous in Generic European Capital, a terrorist ambush, the set of a porno shoot. Each has something to do with a character called “Anna,”  “Annie,” or “Anya” who is, depending on what you believe, a megastar, a nativist, a suicidal, or even luxury vehicle. A la Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, we never really see or know who and what she really is.

The Martin Crimp script presents a challenge to all involved. Since it doesn’t even assign characters to the lines, it forces on the director and cast enormous responsibility. You could tell the actors prepared with tremendous consideration as they delivered a top-notch performance lacking any pretension or over-playing. The Players ensemble was diverse, featuring seasoned favorites like senior Chris Densmore as well as five talented first-years (including Veronica Garcia, whose Spanish dub of a car commercial was an especially fun moment).

Attempts is no doubt also difficult for the audience, which is presented with an overflow of images and sounds but no coherent plot. Yet the visuals, which must have taken hours to produce, are endlessly impressive and by themselves are enough reason to see the play again (the Sims character generation projection was particularly great).

Skilled lighting really helped give each scene a distinct identity, as well as suggest connections between certain scenes, and the production also featured a couple of superbly choreographed dance scenes.

But in addition to merely enjoying the technological virtuosity the Weitz theater enables, viewers must, due to the absence of traditional dramatic structure, work extra hard to develop an idea of how the individual vignettes work together. It may feel less like a play and more like an essay or discussion from your continental philosophy class.

In one especially memorable scene featuring two art critics debating the meaning of a piece of art created by Anne, Sam Chao’s character exclaims: “It’s surely the point that a search for a point is pointless and that the whole point of the exercise – i.e.—these attempts on her own life – points to that.” To which Josh Davids’ character laments: “Why can’t people learn to draw? Why can’t people learn to paint? Students should be taught skills, not ideas.”

Thesis and antithesis, reality and unreality, violence and innocence are constantly put in such close juxtaposition. You’re sure to leave the theater feeling liberal-artsy.

One theme the play exhibits particularly well is the inauthenticity and obnoxiousness of the media’s attempts to report, classify and contextualize events. So I’ll stop talking and instead encourage you to read instead the interview below, which director Roger Bechtel was nice enough to give.

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