Hollywood Fringe 2018
America’s culture war as told through the relationship of two childhood friends.
This dark comedy examines the psychological unraveling that occurs when Andrew (Nardeep Khurmi) welcomes his childhood friend Ben (Dave Childs) to live with him and his fiance Lilly (Nicole Pacent) following the tragic loss of Ben’s dog …and parents.
Andrew at first acts as the mediator between his fiance Lilly and Ben, who begin to develop their own relationship as the ideological tension mounts. Lilly and Andrew’s characters are almost caricatures of a “woke,” liberated, liberal couple; Andrew is a struggling poet, Lilly is a powerful woman who runs a feminist magazine called “Slit.” At first they are both compassionate towards Ben, though his opinions are clearly counter to their progressive ideals.
Playwright Christopher Sullivan’s writing and character development are very successful in making the political personal, exploring the disconnection and isolation of individuals behind the stereotype of the “sensitive/entitled/toxic white male” who live in that intersection of the alt-right/gaming community. America’s culture war as represented through GamerGate is brought up within the first few scenes, which becomes the lens through which we see most of the personal conflict in the play. As the story develops, we see Ben’s depression, anxiety, and resentment towards women met with Lilly’s curiosity, as their relationship develops. The central image of the dog as man’s best friend becomes a metaphor for this inability to connect with others.
Childs gives a dead-pan and naive performance as Ben that is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and when the show reaches its breaking point, it almost comes as a surprise. Pacent’s fierce and grounded performance as Lilly left an impression on me as we see her coming to conclusions and standing up for herself at some point drawing a line in the sand. We live in a society that breeds disconnection and mental health issues- but how much control do we have over this, and when is it just a culture that allows the entitled to remain selfish and childlike, refusing to go through a rite of passage? “Best Friend” leaves the audience with important questions about emotional labor, tolerance, boundaries, and empathy.ELLEN WARKENTINE