Imagine a play without a plot or assigned speaking roles.  Imagine a script which
does not specify particular locations, simply lines of spoken dialog which the
director can assign to whichever actor he chooses and scenes which take place
wherever the director’s imagination take him.  Imagine this kind of play and
you’ve got British playwright Martin Crimp’s Attempts on her Life, the first joint
undertaking of Chris Covics’ Unknown Theater and Bart DeLorenzo’s Evidence

Attempts on her Life actually begins while the audience is waiting in Unknown
Theater’s atmospheric lobby/bar, as the first of 17 “Scenarios for the Theater”
(titled All Messages Deleted) plays over the loudspeaker, a seemingly endless
succession of messages left on a woman’s answering machine.  The messages
continue to be played even after the audience is seated inside the theater.

Above the cavernous stage hang a dozen or so chairs of different varieties—
plastic and metal chairs, metal folding chairs, a swing built for two, a director’s
chair, all of them suspended from crisscrossing cords which cast members will pull
on or release at various times during the play’s 90 minutes, allowing certain
“seating devices” to reach floor level while others are once again raised up above
the actors’ heads. (A wow of a “how did they conceive of that?” and a “how did
they get that to work?” set design by Covics.)

The various “characters” in the Attempts on her Life seem to be talking about or
referring to a woman, called at various times Anne / Anya / Annie / Anny / Anissa,
who may be a porn star, a terrorist, or an artist (those are just three of the
possibilities).  The earliest scenes are the funniest, especially one (Tragedy of Love
and Ideology) which would appear to be a group of self-important writers
planning a script, a scene in which outlandish ideas keep piling up, one upon
another. There are other, more serious scenes, including one (Mom and Dad) in
which a middle-aged mother and father sit on a porch swing discussing a
daughter who has drowned herself (at least I think that’s what they were talking
about).  There’s a scene (The Threat of International Terrorism) with soldiers lying on
army cots while an Arabic speaking voice can be heard over a transistor radio
and another (The Statement) apparently taking place in a police interrogation
room.  Eve Sigall does intense work in Kinda Funny, as an alcoholic, racist
grandmother, and Leo Marks (so good in Defiance) makes a strong impression in
Strangely!.  Oh, there’s even a big song and dance production number entitled
The Camera Loves You (music by John Ballinger, choreography by cast member
Diana Wyenn), straight out of Saturday Night Live crossed with Sweet Charity.

In addition to Sigall, Marks, and Wyenn, the excellent ensemble is made up of
Lauren Campedelli, Liz Davies, Kathy Bell Denton, Tom Fitzpatrick, Mandy Freund
(Proof, The Glass Menagerie), Craig Johnson, Kelly Lett, Dylan Kenin, Taras Michael
Los, Uma Nithipalan, Dan Oiverio, Chris Payne (Corpus Christi), Brittany Slattery,
and Don Oscar Smith. They are all fine actors whose future work I look forward to

Besides Covics’ breathtaking set design, Tony Mulanix’s lighting, Suzanne Scott’s
multitude of costumes, and John Zalewski’s pulsating sound design are all
standouts. Co-directors Covics and DeLorenzo’s have clearly brought talent and
commitment to this challenging project.  With these two directors, especially
working in tandem, audiences are assured of witnessing something fresh and

Theatergoers who require a linear plot, a compelling story line, and richly fleshed-
out three-dimensional characters would probably do best to skip Attempts on her

On the other hand, those wanting to take a chance on experimental avant-
garde theater will have much to talk about after seeing Covics’ and DeLorenzo’s
very unique vision.

Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward Street, Hollywood

–Steven Stanley
November 16, 2007

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