What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends

Larry Kunofsky
Four Chairs Theatre Company
Lion Theatre @ Theatre Row, New York City
(2008)

Production photo

Our former Edinburgh reviewer, Rachel Lynn Brody, has moved back to the United States and is now giving us the occasional taste of US theatre.

“I have no friends,” Matt (Todd D’Amour) says at the opening of What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends. As his companion (Josh Lefkowitz, in the first of his many entertaining roles) tries to list possible candidates, Matt shoots each one down with the dirgeful diligence of someone confident in his correctness, but taking little delight in being right.

Next, Amy Staats enters, floating on a cloud of wistful honesty, introducing us to her theory: that Celia (Carrie Keranen), the prettiest and most popular girl she knows, is actually the leader of a secret society where Friends (with a capital “F”, that’s important) rate and rank one another on a monthly basis, ensuring one another’s affections and loyalty. Celia and Matt meet, and despite an obvious mutual attraction, resolve not to be a couple – instead, Matt accepts an invitation to join the Friends society.

Kunofsky’s narrative is straightforward and easy to follow, and both his story and dialogue are highly entertaining. Exchanges are snappy and focused, and Josh Lefkowitz and Susan Louise O’Connor shine in multiple comedic roles.

As a complete work, however, What To Do falters thematically. Matt’s struggles with popularity and his manipulations of the system are rewarding viewing for any confirmed outsider, and in one particular poignant moment (which echoes the opening of the play) he realizes that his new “friends” are no closer than the people he claimed to hate at the beginning of the play. One suspects that Matt’s problem is, actually, that he quite likes being around people but is constantly disappointed by the people who fail to live up to his expectations. With a shoehorned-in romantic subplot between Matt and Celia and a bizarre twist involving NSA sexual encounters via craigslist (online classified advertising), the emotional core of the play is hard to pin down. The play owes much of its on-the-spot ability to hold interest to Jacob Krueger’s skillful direction and the cast’s relentless energy, which carry the production through moments where the script alone doesn’t quite do the trick.

Overall an enjoyable night out, but not a show which requires (or invites) a great deal of analysis either during or after the performance.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody