One post on social media can be the catalyst for numerous think pieces, conversations amongst friends, and the start of a movement, but does that include change around nepotism, capitalism, and cultural appropriation? Playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones’ is ready to tackle that question in her latest production The Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner.
Starring Leanne Henlon and Tia Bannon and directed by Milli Bhatia, Lee-Jones’ play tells the story of how a Twitter thread constructed by Cleo (Henlon) critiquing Jenner’s “self-made” billionaire status, takes on a life of its own in front of her eyes and those of her friend Kara (Bannon). Lee-Jones has created a story that calls out the way we think of “self-made billionaires” and forces audiences to reckon with the systems of oppression that Black women and femmes navigate daily.
The Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner starts off as a look at the ramifications of viral posting and critiquing on social media, then becomes something so much more. One post becomes a vehicle for conversations on race, gender, queerness, intersectionality, the power of social media, and cancel culture.
Lee-Jones adds more relevance to these topics through the use of internet speech, Black British slang, and Gen Z culture. All of these merge in monologues and dialogues to transport audiences to another place and time, discuss the repercussions of slavery and colonialism that reverberate today, but convey these messages without becoming a dissertation.
Many plays that handle social issues find a conduit to convey disparities within gender, race, sexual orientation, and more, but not many have been able to harness social media to do so. Lee-Jones also has a knack for infusing comedy into the production that allows the messages to go down smoothly, but still pack a punch to prove a point.
Bannon and Henlon take Lee-Jones’ script and make it electric through their portrayals of Kara and Cleo respectively. The two also give life to tweets as their characters personify the reactions to Cleo’s thread in a way that depicts how quickly our online thoughts disperse throughout the world, but also highlights the ill treatment that Black women and femmes receive online. At times, the language within the transitions may be hard to decipher and the conveying of them may feel chaotic to those not familiar with the play’s lexicon, but it doesn’t make it any less impactful.
Additionally, society is changing and so are the attendees of theatre. Whether or not this is at the forefront of Lee-Jones’ mind doesn’t matter, as her play fully embodies what theatre will become – a reflection of those who gain access to attend it and to create it. As a Gen Z playwright, Lee-Jones drives that change, but also makes space for more Black women to feel seen in a traditionally white male art form.
One of the best moments within this play is how Lee-Jones tackles the nuances of the Black experience. While Cleo and Kara are both Black women, their experiences as Black women differ greatly. Cleo is heterosexual and has darker skin, while Kara is mixed-raced, queer, and has lighter skin. All of the elements of these women come up in personal narratives and conversations that highlight how slavery, colonialism, homophobia, sexism, and colorism have impacted Black people, but how they’ve also generated different experiences for these Black women, in terms of their proximity to the dominant forces in society.
The Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner is definitely worth checking out, but I ask, as does the play, to think critically about your connection to the play’s material. Lee-Jones fully recognizes this.
“It may be misleading, or clickbait, using the whiteness of this woman,” states Lee-Jones for Playbill. “But through the proximity to whiteness, I’m getting an opportunity for people to look at Black women’s stories in a different way.”
While the production can and should be consumed by everyone, audiences should examine what they’re truly meant to take from the play. Whether that means finally feeling seen or finally being “called in”, we all have some connection to the material. That includes Kylie Jenner.
The Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner is a part of the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater and runs through January 22, 2023.