The Carnivale Interviews

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Cynthia Ettinger in "Self Defense"!


Cynthia Ettinger plays a searing, soaring serial killer in "Self Defense or, Death of Some Salesmen."

Feb. 10, 2004

Self Defense or, Death of Some Salesmen

By Ed Kaufman

The Actors' Gang, Hollywood
Through March 7

Although it's been 16 months since her state-sanctioned death by lethal injection in a Florida prison, convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos continues to attract attention. Currently showing is the fictionalized shocker "Monster," while Nick Bromfield and Joan Churchill have made two documentaries: "Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer" and "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer."

And now there's Carson Kreitzer's stunning and compelling "Self Defense or, Death of Some Salesmen," in its West Coast premiere at the Actors' Gang.

As part of Kreitzer's "Women Who Kill" triptych, "Self Defense" (an hour and 45 minutes without intermission) is raw and bold, brutal and ironic -- and full of nagging questions. Whereas the film "Monster" dealt with the more sensational aspects of Wuornos' Florida killing spree, "Self Defense" (a fictionalized docudrama) lashes out at the twisted society that turned her trial into simply another media-driven circus, depriving Wuornos of much of her own self-defense testimony.

Writer Kreitzer doesn't defend Wuornos, admittedly a killer. She only asks that we judge her within another context: a horribly and emotionally scarred hooker who became a media attraction for postfeminists as well as born-again Christians. And a legal system that was skewed and lax.

All is set within Sybil Wickersheimer's wonderful set: an open Brechtian stage setting with strip-club poles, giant vertical blinds and junk-food wrappers. Alix Hester's costumes allow us to realize an assortment of characters, while Adam H. Greene's lighting and John Zalewski's sound ably underscore the setting.

At the center of things is Cynthia Ettinger's searing, soaring serial killer Jolene Palmer (changed from Aileen Wuornos). She blends her torment with a kind of animal acuity, her pathos with her rage. She seems less physically ravaged than Charlize Theron in the Oscar-nominated "Monster," and so we see more of a battered and tormented soul as she commands center stage in her orange prison jumpsuit.

Aimie Billon, Blaire Chandler, Dina Platias and Adele Robbins are marvelous in multiple roles, while Ken Elliott, Tom Fitzpatrick and Gary Kelley (also in a variety of roles) offer strong support.

Credit Beth F. Milles for the astute, savvy, chilling direction.

Self Defense or, Death of Some Salesmen
Presented by the Actors' Gang
Playwright: Carson Kreitzer
Director: Beth F. Milles
Scenic designer: Sibyl Wickersheimer
Lighting designer: Adam H. Greene
Costume designer: Alix Hester
Sound designer: John Zalewski
Cast: Cynthia Ettinger, Aimie Billon, Blaire Chandler, Ken Elliott, Tom Fitzpatrick, Gary Kelley, Dina Platias, Adele Robbins

Greg Reiner
Managing Director
The Actors' Gang
323-465-0566x11 (voice)
323-978-0011 (fax)

COMING SOON! Part II of our Interview with DANIEL KNAUF, and a New, Exclusive Interview with ADRIENNE BARBEAU!

Dust Bowl Tour '34 T-shirts Donation Sent!

A special thanks to all of the fans who took part in our sale of the Dust Bowl '34 shirts. Because of your generous participation, we were able to send in a donation today in the amount of $1175 to the Beth Brown Memorial Foundation -- a fund set up by Clancy Brown's family, in his sister's memory, that offers scholarships to students going into the fields of medicine, journalism, and public service.

We won't be taking orders for more Dust Bowl shirts anytime soon, but there is a possibility we may offer them again at a later date -- perhaps after new fans discover "Carnivale" in its second season.

In the meantime, we would like to thank everyone again for their kind participation and generosity during this fund raiser.