Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Exit on Taylor, never reluctant to stage daring experimental theater, is currently hosting the Ambit Theatre Company which is presenting ATTRITION; written and directed Marilee Talkington.

Rarely does one experience the intensity of such a tightly integrated play: it braids sight and sound and script into a steel cable that tugs the audience through a gauntlet of emotions.

The fractured pieces of the set (by Andrew Lu) hold the characters of the play in the isolation tanks that their broken spirits have culled, condemned and exiled them.

The lighting (also by Andrew Lu) is a metaphor for the agonizing stygian depths of the psychological chasms in to which the characters have tumbled and lie marooned.

The script, both tragic and poetic, dovetails the characters by having one character step into the syncopation of another character's monologue to finish his or her thought.

The play consists of four characters: a poet who has lost most of her memory and all of her words, a young women who was sexually abused by her grandfather for nearly ten years, a young man who takes up arms against an abusive step-father only to ratchet up his abuse while serving life in prison, and a female business executive who tries to out run the furies of her self-imposed limitations only to find herself assaulted by paralyzing anxiety attacks.

Miss Talkington's script has a structure akin to Greek tragedy: the same strengths that vaulted and elevated the protagonists in early life serve as scaffolds and gibbets in their later lives: the poetess is surrounded by her poems all of which collectively chant to remind her that she has Alzheimer's disease and can barely assemble or hold a thought much less craft a poem; the young man that mustered the courage to end a senseless cycle of abuse for both his mother and himself finds himself tormented in prison for taking up arms against a sea of injustices, and the female executive accidentally invites in crippling self-doubt when uses sky-diving as a tool to taunt fear and to exhilarate herself with intimate danger.

The collective effect of set design, sound and script, which is sustained by masterful acting, is not only riveting but it allows the essence of the play to penetrate deeper into the consciousness of the audience.

ATTRITION brings one face to face with personal demons: fears of how the abrasive sands of time will eventually erode our corporeal and mental beings; the baggage, scars and un-lanced carbuncles we tote from our early life experiences, and the tenuous nature of strength and courage that can capriciously abandon us without warning.

ATTRITION makes one aware of the major league demons that torment so many people of the world and ATTRITION makes one appreciate with good humor the minor league pesky imps that needle us with mere trifles in our relatively secure lives.

If you would have liked to have trucked with Dante, Virgil and Menninger, then this show is definitely your portal to the psychological netherworld. It is equal parts entertainment, edification and epiphany. To get tickets, call the box office at 415-440-4913 or visit the Ambit Theatre web site at

Jeffrey R Smith
San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Sidewalk Politician and Arm Chair Liberal

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