Jasmine Lee-Jones Balances Razor Wit & Raw Vulnerability
by Beau McGlasson
Award-winning Jasmine Lee-Jones brings her sharp-witted and hilarious Twitter-fueled play to the “Under the Radar Festival” at the New York Public Theater. Dynamic performances from Tia Bannon and Leanne Henlon energize Jones’s hyper-online script, bringing her surreal deep dive into online discourse to life.
This British play from the Royal Court Theatre in London, points out the widespread influence of the ubiquitous K’s. Although I don’t pay attention to the Kardashians’ shows or sales pitches, we can’t ignore their powerful presence—no matter how hard I try. Kardash over-saturation looms large in Jones’s script. Like it or not, we all must note the omni-present K’s.
Set in 2019, Cleo (passionate Tia Bannon) has to deal with her own awareness of the K’s when Forbes names Kylie Jenner as their “Youngest Self-Made Billionaire.” In her bedroom recovering from a breakup, Cleo rants on Twitter attacking the already-wealthy Jenner as undeserving and exploitative of Black women.
Her tirade evolves into the seven methods she’d use to kill the K princess, including drowning, immolation, shooting, and disfigurement. Kara (hilarious Leanne Henlon), Cleo’s best friend, tries to talk her down—with no luck.
“seven methods of killing kylie jenner” is at its best when we are a fly on the wall, eavedropping on Cleo and Kara’s increasingly hilarious and acidic arguments over Cleo’s Twitter thread. They engage realistically with heady topics like late capitalism, misogyny specifically against Black women, and cancel culture. All the while, they maintain a uniquely Gen Z level of sarcasm and humor that I find hilarious.
One of the best exchanges is when Cleo tells Kara about the most recent break up with her on-again-off-again boyfriend. Cleo complains that she’s ‘craving dick’ and that she can’t get off by mere masturbation. It’s the funniest point of the show and probably a great account of how young people talk to each other. The duo is raw, crass, and honest.
Some of the dialogue is bogged down by an overuse of online lingo like wtf, tbh, mfw, idk, lol, and a constant stream of meme references. But even if playwright Jones spends too much effort on recreating Twitter convos, her colorful style, inventive structure, and timely themes make for a funny and provocative show with a BIG heart.
“seven methods of killing kylie jenner” by Jasmine Lee-Jones, directed by Milli Bhatia, designed by Rajha Shakiry, movement direction by Delphine Gaborit, voice & dialect by Hazel Holder and Eleanor Manners, produced by The Royal Court Theatre, U.K., with Woolly Mammoth Theatre, at The Public Theater, New York, N.Y. Info: PublicTheater.org – to January 22, 2023.
Cast: Tia Bannon and Leanne Henlon.
Banner photo: Leanne Henlon (Cleo). Photos by Helen Murray