Review: Obsidian’s fast-paced ‘seven methods of killing kylie jenner’ engulfs

British dramedy filled with Internet slang gets animated Canadian premiere in the Crow’s Theatre studio

What: seven methods of killing kylie jenner
Where: Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Ave.
When: Now, until Sun., June 2
Highlight: Laura Warren’s highly digital video design
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)
Why you should go: Director Jay Northcott’s explosive production captures how the usually sizable distance between in-person and online life can collapse with terrifying speed.

THEATRE has an easy time condemning social media. Audiences, committed enough to the physical world that they’re willing to shut off their phones for a couple hours, are likely to find themselves in agreement if a character launches into a monologue condemning the sirenic clutches of Zuckerberg and company.

But British playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones’s seven methods of killing kylie jenner, half-set on X (still Twitter in the 2019 world of the play), isn’t much interested in judgment. Presented by Obsidian Theatre in association with Crow’s Theatre, the play is more a freewheeling examination of the relationship between in-person and online life. Director Jay Northcott’s explosive production demonstrates how the usually sizeable distance between the two can collapse with terrifying speed.

seven methods of killing kylie jenner’s setting alternates between the physical world and the digital one. The headstrong Cleo (Déjah Dixon-Green) runs an anonymous Twitter account that goes viral after she begins to post a seven-part rant detailing ways in which Kylie Jenner could be killed. The motive behind these tirades is Jenner’s continued appropriation of Blackness. In real life, Cleo’s best friend, the pragmatic Kara (Jasmine Case), tries to defuse the situation, sympathizing with Cleo’s rage but at the same time seeing the danger of posting violent thoughts for an exponentially growing audience.

The 90-minute production transforms the Crow’s Studio Theatre into Cleo’s bedroom. Nick Blais’s paint-splattered set features a large circular bed (really a trampoline) littered with Squishmallows and fluffy cushions, backed by over a dozen hanging TV monitors of varying shapes and sizes. In the physical world, the women lounge on the bed while, during the online rants, Cleo steps onto the floor, grabs a microphone and starts yelling, causing Laura Warren’s fervent video design to flash and Maddie Bautista’s vigorous sound design to crescendo. These maximalist effects capture the overwhelming nature of the Internet, along with the disarming pace at which it moves.

Cleo and Kara’s language is heightened, too: Lee-Jones’s dialogue is so ridden with online slang that the show’s program includes a glossary.

Yet the sensational thing about the production is the way the down-to-earth performances of Dixon-Green and Case contrast the unreal quality of the design and dialogue. Even though some (but not all) of the play’s vocabulary undersells the gravity of the dramatic situation, only providing a pencil outline, the performers colour in the empty space, journeying to the requisite emotional depths.

seven methods of killing kylie jenner explores such tensions with care, counterpointing the seeming artifice of the digital world with the real-life carnage it can inflict — with the way it can leave a pair of best friends lugging a bagged corpse across the floor, desperate to conceal their violent deed.