‘Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner’ is murder the smartest


meta? Could be. Seven Methods to Kill Kylie Jenner (Public Theater until Jan. 22) is the kind of title that will cause the internet to froth should the unseen world of anger aggregators descend upon it and do their thing. The subject matter of Jasmine Lee-Jones’ brilliant play, directed by Milli Bhatia, is about the same thing: deliberately spreading anger on the internet to feed one’s own notoriety and sense of importance, and its human and other consequences.

The play, which has garnered awards from London (including the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Most Promising Playwright Awards, and the Alfred Fagon Award) also deals with racism, friendship, strangeness and black beauty. Overarching everything – on the stage in front of us – is some kind of monstrous, Babadookian, though white, rope canopy with dangling strands; the internet made symbolic until a bridal veil meets the mouth of hell. Those drooping leaves take on an even more pervasive meaning when the lyrics refer to lynching at one point.

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Cleo (Leanne Henlon) is the one tweeting the death threats for likes, but, as she makes clear to her concerned friend Kara (Tia Bannon), what she was really trying to do was a cultural critique, enraged by the news, of which TBEN in 2019 reported that Jenner is the world’s youngest “self-made” billionaire (and was later shown to be false). And so begins the anger-written tweet thread, and while the piece interrogates very big themes and very big pain, around black identity and the co-option of black identity, it’s also very funny and moving.

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The relationship between the two women – and how Kara expresses her own strangeness and her anger at Cleo’s past homophobia, which she also expressed online – is particularly strong. You root for them both separately and together. The piece does not tie anything with a neat bow; the racism that Cleo rightly identifies as so pervasive in the culture takes on a historical anchor. In the end, the audience is central, and the subject of the most critical glances.

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Seven Methods to Kill Kylie Jenner is excellently written and acted. The night this critic went, all sorts of technical gimmicks capsized the production for about 50 minutes of the performance, and 15 minutes while things were sorted out. It says something about how good Henlon and Bannon are, it didn’t matter (during the 50 minute performance with mics and lights out of sync the actors just kept going), or how good Seven Methods to Kill Kylie Jenner cohesive as an exciting and concise piece of theatre.