Monday, August 4, 2008

What to Do When You Hate All Your Friends (Lion Theatre at Theatre Row)

Susan Louise O'Connner, Josh Lefkowitz, Amy Staats, Carrie Keranen, Todd D'Amour. Photo by Martin R. Miller.

BOTTOM LINE: a talented cast trying really hard to rise above so-so material...but still worth the price of admission.

You can probably guess that I didn’t love this play; but I didn’t hate it either. I am actually completely neutral, it just sort of happened. Larry Kunofsky’s new play What to Do When You Hate All Your Friends tells the story of Matt (Todd D'Amour), a man who (as you can no doubt guess) hates pretty much everyone. He decides to join this clique of friends who assign a ranking system to determine who is each respective member’s number one friend. Matt grows to actually like these people and feel accepted and he even falls in love with the ring leader of the group, Celia (Carrie Keranen), who has major intimacy issues. But the problem with the script is that I didn’t really care. The hero of the story doesn’t like anyone or anything, so likewise it’s really hard to like him. This is no fault of D’Amour, who does a good job, but he has a lot working against him.

There are some pretty funny moments in this play, and I'm sure some people will find the characters charming. Amy Staats' quirky betrayal of the fringe friend, Enid, is amusing. There is also a pretty outrageous scene between Matt and Celia where they meet and pleasure themselves under separate sheets.

One of the best components of the show is the awesome set design by Niluka Hotaling. She does an incredible job of designing a multi-functional set that makes the very small acting area of The Lion Theatre seem larger than it is. It adds a fun element of fantasy and whimsy to this off-beat comedy.

I think that the playwright had great intentions, but perhaps this story would have worked better as a one act play. The concept is good, but it feels a little long at nearly 2.5 hours. It’s a cute little play with a few problems, but honestly that might not matter in the end. This group of characters picks apart every little minutia of each day’s activity; if you have friends like that you'll find it totally relatable. It’s a clever commentary on how we define ourselves and our friends. However the play wants the audience to fall in love with it and its parade of yuppie characters, but falls a little short of this goal.

That being said, if you like seeing new work by a promising young playwright with some truly fine performances, What To Do When You Hate Your Friends, is worth a look. Don’t expect to be bowled over, but I definitely chuckled a few times and you can check out some talented actors who have the chops to go on to bigger and better things. One final reason to see this show is a promotion with the Celtic Bar where you can get a free cocktail at the bar after the show when you present your ticket stub from the show. Live theatre AND free alcohol...and for only slightly more that a movie can’t really go wrong with that!

(What to Do When You Hate All Your Friends plays through August 23th at The Lion Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd (Between Ninth and Tenth Ave.) Shows times are Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are $ 212.279.4200 or visit

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