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Play travels dark, twisted road

Citizen Staff Writer



They are the people we never see. The single travelers with their elaborate black leather brief cases. The people who sit by themselves on airplanes, keeping an eye on their wristwatches and always looking bored.

Or else we see them riding in buses with musical instruments tucked under their seats, munching on old food, being terminally hip.

Or maybe just schlepping from town to town with big make-up cases and a couple of changes in theater clothes. They are the actors, riding on their imagination, truly believing they are just one dramatic role away from becoming shiny celebrities.

They are the travelers, the disconnected who judge each town by the quality of its restaurant waiters and hotel staffs. They are the unencumbered souls who fill Anne Thibault’s “I Wrote This Play To Make You Love Me.”

That is, all the characters but one. She is the marginally successful actress Lysette, played with an incredible innocence by soft-voiced Amanda Gremel in the late night production by Etcetera at Live Theatre Workshop. Lysette can be describing the most incredibly horrific sexual misadventure while maintaining an open-minded sweetness that feels absolutely genuine. Which makes the horrible parts even more so.

She not only depends on the kindness of strangers, she depends on the kindness of sick perverts with voracious appetites. Sharks of immorality who must keep committing more immoral acts just to stay alive.

In the course of this 90-minute one-act Lysette meets them all. She doesn’t want to meet them. She doesn’t seek them out. She would prefer to stay in her hotel room, learning her lines to be in Ibsen’s equally bleak “A Doll’s House.” But she meets them anyway.

The construction of Thibault’s play doesn’t invite the audience in, however. This is basically Gremel providing a recitation of Lysette’s unfortunate social life as she keeps traveling in pursuit of work, hanging out with equally transient punk rockers along the way and hating those sandal-wearing hippie vegetarians in Vermont who keep protesting the construction of more cell phone microwave towers.

Which is why she can never get a decent cell phone connection.

There is a stream of consciousness feeling to this dutiful remembrance of her lost loves, disgusting loves and the numbing sorrow of always having to settle, not for Mr. Right, but for Mr. Right Now.

Occasionally her resigned ruminations are augmented by off-stage comments from Christopher Johnson. His disembodied voice floats unseen, sort of like the voice of conscience that couldn’t care less about anyone’s true feelings.

Occasionally, Johnson jumps onstage to play a variety of unsavory characters who pop in and out of Lysette’s directionless life. There is never any arc to her journey, no moment when she must risk everything to save her own soul from this limbo of pop culture vultures feeding on the spiritually dead.

Johnson is also the director, carefully guiding Gremel’s revelations of personality. Without calling on any vein-bulging theatrics, eschewing the usual mannerisms of damsels in mental distress, Gremel does create a convincing portrait of a young person who wants to believe wearing the right clothes and loving the right music will make her more valuable in the eyes of others.

Such poignancy is irresistible. While the structure of the play keeps Gremel from any blossoming insight, anyone who has traveled these same midnight roads through such tortured landscapes will love her stories.

Play peeks at numbing social life of actress


What: Etcetera presents “I Wrote This Play To Make You Love Me” by Anne Thibault

When: 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 18

Where: Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.

Price: $10

Info: 481-1449, www.livetheatreworkshop.org

Grade: B+

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