The rise of true crime has generated an influx of film and TV adaptations that explore the depraved minds of killers. “It’s All Just Noise,” produced and written by Karly Thomas, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) student in creative writing for performing arts, comments on the unjustified portrayal of murder victims and how their stories are glorified in Hollywood media. The play, like many created by MFA candidates, is produced under AKA Productions, a student-led organization on campus that aims to represent the voices of creative pieces.
As the play begins, a rush of violent sounds introduces the audience to Witness (Isabelle Cherubin). Witness takes notes of the content they are viewing but immediately turns the TV off when the screams of a tortured woman are heard. Cherubin releases an anguish-filled scream, leaving silence in the theater as they attempt to recover from what they’ve witnessed, but a knock at the door welcomes Attorney (Aedan Ferrara).
Ferrara’s portrayal of a sly lawyer opens the world of law and its involvement in media outlets when cameras become the focus of murder trials. The lawyer, while unagreeable, holds the audience’s attention as they grab a mic and promote their Netflix documentary, delivering a mocking tone towards streaming services that monetize on real-life cases.
Attorney attempts to convince Witness to testify for their client, Suspect (Aaron Martinez). Witness’ character shows reluctance as they are continually frustrated with how their best friend has been depicted as an object rather than a victim. To make matters worse, Suspect soon arrives and asks to be left alone with Witness to see if they can reach a compromise together. Director and MFA student in screenwriting, Kali Veach, utilizes dramatic irony as Attorney stays in the scene and serves as an outside guide for Suspect so an agreement can be reached.
Periods of silence between the characters are interrupted by the same audio recording of the screaming woman played earlier. The sound effects enhance the stress felt by Witness as they are repeatedly exposed to the trauma of their friend’s murder — a reality felt by many loved ones of victims who have to relive these experiences when their cases are adapted into TV or film. Their anguish pushes them to deny Suspect and Attorney’s wishes, and the characters leave in anger as their monetized futures become futile.
The scene transitions to a lighter tone when the voice of Witness’ best friend, also known as Victim (Alex Valianos) in the play, comes rising down the theater’s stairs and into the scene. Victim performs a cheeky dance, enlivening the mood and bringing to light their actual identity that is glossed over in media outlets. It is a bittersweet moment as the friends reunite and reflect on the occurrences that have halted their lives. Though Witness remains angry about the way Victim has been portrayed to the public, Victim attempts to cheer their friend up by reminding them that they will always know who they were before the tragedy separated them. The scene ends with the best friends dancing to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
An encore of applause closed the play before the crew team took their bows and thanked the audience for attending.
After the show, The Highlander was given the chance to ask Thomas and Veach about their creation, as well as their thoughts on how they provided commentary about true crime.
“As someone who writes stories myself and consumes stories on that same end, I started to become [sensitive] to exploitatively violent material. [I asked myself] is there a way to engage in the genre without being exploitative?” said Thomas.
As this was Veach’s first time directing a play, they compare their experience with film. “In film, we don’t get a lot of rehearsal time. [For the play] we get to collaborate with the actors and all the ideas come from watching something for the feign of heart. It’s a rollercoaster.”
As a whole, the play commentates cleverly on aspects of true crime and the representation of victims. Containing sarcastic comedy, emotional dialogue and unnerving sound effects, it was a piece that many enjoyed that night.
If you are hoping to check out more MFA readings and plays, Veach stated, “AKA might be doing full productions in the summer.”