I spent most of What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends feeling embarrassed. The actors put so much energy behind the goofy dialogue, the awkward fourth wall breaks, and the pothole-riddled narrative superimposed on the play's pointless absurdity that I cringed when running gags fell flat over and over. I felt really embarrassed for the woman sitting next to me who fell asleep and started snoring. When the curtain fell I just bolted.
The play is an absurdist comedy with a moral lesson, which would be difficult to handle even without its additional attempts at cleverness and hazy allusions to fascism or something. Some urbanites form a secret society of friends to ensure loyalty, and use a system of points and ranking to keep each other "honest" that (not quite shockingly) tends to backfire. The dialogue comes across like bad improv comedy--the kind that keeps building even though it isn't funny and doesn't make sense. Because the lines and the situations are so ridiculous, the actors understandably tend toward caricatures that range from endearing to shrill.
As outsider Enid, Amy Staats is the most consistently funny and charming, plucking humor from the tortuous script. Todd D'Amour has an undeniable presence onstage and commits fully and admirably to oddball protagonist Matt's share of the affected dialogue. Josh Lefkowitz is saddled with most of the sinkers, playing multiple characters, although high-pitched and smiley Susan Louise O'Connor delivers a number as well. Carrie Keranen isn't all that unlikable as ringleader Celia, which makes backlash against her seem odd and unwarranted. Most of What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends seems odd and unwarranted.
What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends
Lion Theatre @ Theatre Row--410 W 42nd St
July 19th-August 23rd