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11/8/13

How I Almost Lost My Best Friend at How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them

Some of you have expressed sympathy for my dear BFF Courtney because she is my default ‘plus one’ on nearly all of my theater outings, including the "experimental" ones. Hey, we’re close…and we’re not sorry. And to be fair, in terms of selecting the shows to see, I am right on more occasions than I am wrong.

Usually.

But man…do I owe her the largest of apologies after subjecting her to the abomination that is How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them, now open at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. In fact, I’m glad we’re such great friends that she didn’t kill me (or herself) the night we saw this show, even though we rushed out of the theater in 80’s thriller/slasher movie, “THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE” fashion.

Because this How to Make Friends…, written by Halley Feiffer, is a bit of a doozy to sit through. The storyline - revolving around a friendship triangle of girls, two sisters and their overweight, outcast friend Dorrie - has serious issues of execution. Like, seriously serious. The themes coursing throughout the show’s structure - the shuffling of alliances, the toxic and sadomasochistic relationships, the dark side of lady friendships - has merit to them if presented in the right way. But this is not the right way.

Nope, not even close. Different and striking…just without any thought or resonance. It is all bluster and impact with the depiction of its characters, the dialogue and their motivations. Like low-end fan-fiction (and that’s saying something) found on the 67th page of a Google search.

At no point do these characters resemble any people anywhere and rather then paint the characters with nuance, they remain stagnant in their characterization as the years go by. The same could be said for the three performances and their inability to mature with their characters - we’re introduced to them at childhood and they behave the same (and look the same) as they graduate high school, and then college and adulthood.

Bottom line, these characters are downright unlikeable. The sisters, aside from being poorly defined, are insufferable and Dorrie is a self-deprecating, doormat. All of the mean-spirited dialogue and berating and admissions of love and hate and death in a bipolar fashion are exactly that…face-value admissions with no understanding of what or why is being said.

I am definitely not one to criticize productions that take risks and strive to be off-the-beaten path; I encourage that. But if they are not calculated risks, then they aren’t really risks at all. They are just assertive statements in that cliched, “THIS is ART BITCHES" mold. The fact that the show doesn’t stand on its own for what it is trying to achieve, it just comes off as ill-thought out and aggressively obnoxious. Kudos for eliciting a reaction out of me - and so many days later, I do recall what I was watching as opposed to some other boring, forgettable piece of theater - but I can only reflect on this show for how appalling it is. Let’s just be thankful I didn’t lose my best friend over how tasteless How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them truly is.


Photo Credit: Hal Horowitz 

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