by Lynn Marie Macy · November 8, 2013
Indie Artists on New Plays #19 Lynn Marie Macy comments on How to Make Friends and then Kill Them now playing at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
Ada and Sam are sisters. Halley Feiffer’s How to Make Friends and then Kill Them is an absurdist dark comedy that follows their tumultuous co-dependent relationship from childhood to adulthood. The dysfunction in their lives runs deep as they vie for supremacy and attention from their absentee alcoholic parent. Ada (Katya Campbell) is the pretty, vibrant sister and Sam (Keira Keeley ) is the smart, brooding sister – they laugh, they fight, they compete and as children they play games and share sock bracelets. They cannot live without each other and they cannot live with each other. Sam has an unhealthy worship of her older sister and Ada has a skewed sense of her own self-worth and entitlement because of it.
Enter Dorrie (Jen Ponton) a sad, isolated loser with a bad case of acne and early onset fibromyalgia. Befriended by Ada but used by both sisters as a pawn/surrogate in their struggles for dominance. The three girls move from childhood to graduation, to college and into adulthood via a tug-of-war dance that ends with Ada following her mother’s footsteps into addiction.
The play unfolds in their kitchen and various other locations. Andromache Chalfant’s unique set incorporates odd angles, and unsettling open walls with exposed cotton candy pink insulation. Rows of lighted booze bottles highlight the blight of alcoholism that hangs over the home.
Lighting by Tyler Micoleau supports the action and gives emphasis when needed. Jessica Pabst’s costumes play with color and shadows and are well suited to the characters.
The direction by Kip Fagan is superb. He keeps the pace flowing and stages the play with creativity and skill. Fagen has also assembled a wonderful cast. All three actresses bring humor and 150% commitment to their performances. Katya Campbell as the beautiful Ada is compelling and hypnotic in her movements and cunning and cruel in her intents. Keira Keeley as Sam captures the humor and pathos of the sad and insecure younger sister. Jen Ponton is perfectly believable and funny as the brow beaten bedraggled Dorrie.
Feiffer’s script, while an interesting premise and filled with amusing dialogue, revealed its flaws. Its structure is repetitive and does not fully hold our attention to the end. The audience has no one to root for in that these girls never actually grow up intellectually or emotionally. Their behavior continues infantile and alienating throughout, and the piece therefore lacks the depth and complexity promised at the outset. As a new script with so much potential, the writer should be encouraged to continue developing it.
How to Make Friends and then Kill Them at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre should none-the-less become a destination for all those who appreciate unique approaches and top-notch performances.