Theater Review: OUR DEAR DEAD DRUG LORD (Kirk Douglas Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on September 11, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


In Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, which opened last Sunday at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, feral feminism from sociopathic fledglings starts out fantastic but goes off the rails in a burst of magical realism. What could have been a complex, smart exploration of loss, idol worship, and teen angst is in the end a series of events that could make the trigger warnings to the audience as long as Beowulf. Based on some whip-smart dialogue, one expects a play which speaks intelligently or progressively about tough topics. Instead of a supernatural comedy-thriller we get a nonsensical treatise as the author feeds us her ideas instead of trusting the audience to get them on our own.

Samantha Miller, Coral Peña, Lilian Rebelo, and Ashley Brooke

For 60 of 90 minutes, playwright Alexis Scheer creates original, quirky, sometimes absorbing, dialogue from four teens who are the entire membership of a Dead Leaders’ Club in an abandoned treehouse (which is bigger than a studio apartment). That it ends up traumatic, apropos of nothing, excruciating, banal and disappointing is an understatement. In dancing between high-school dramedy and psychological thriller, Scheer tries to explore a vast list of coming-of-age trials (themes of queerness, abortion, and a lost sibling are just a start) but doesn’t actually get to any profundity. And as much as these girls talk (not surprising given the cocaine use), we are never emotionally invested in their journey as the play literally vacillates between inventive and trite.

Samantha Miller, Lilian Rebelo, Ashley Brooke, and Coral Peña

Scheer has us spying on this funny and sinister ritualistic society of unfettered, unabashed, unpredictable adolescents who are coming to terms with female empowerment in 2008. With names endowed to them by a Ouija Board — Pipe (Lilian Rebelo), Zoom (Ashley Brooke), Kit (Coral Peña) and Squeeze (Samantha Wynette Miller) — talk intelligently about politics, identity, shopping, and big world things that all get thrown into a soup which under-seasons, leading to an incomprehensible denouement, both literally and creatively (who writes a play that ends with a handout from ushers translating the final scene from Spanish?).

Lilian Rebelo and Coral Peña

Bonds of sacred mean-girl code are tested as they prepare for a séance to conjure the ghost of deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar. It begins with a sacrificial kitty, which is thrillingly disturbing, but the most disturbing part (other than more blood later on), is we can’t figure out the context — it’s too deep to be a slice-of-life story, and too rooted in reality to be fantasy or satire.

Coral Peña, Ashley Brooke, Lilian Rebelo, and Samantha Miller

Praise to the incredible quad of actors, who believably offer shrill teenagers yelling and talking over each other, full of passion and excitement. Center Theatre Group Associate Artistic Director Lindsay Allbaugh ensures a gorgeously designed show with special effects in the latter half, after which Scheer via the teens lets us know in no uncertain terms that it’s about THEM and doing things THEIR WAY. Is this what the show was trying to say? While I’m pondering this, it may be time to snort some coke and have a séance to summon some playwrights who are not in the throes of experimentation, but have actually arrived.

Samantha Miller, Coral Peña, Lilian Rebelo, and Ashley Brooke

photos by Craig Schwartz Photography

Our Dear Dead Drug Lord
Center Theatre Group
in association with IAMA Theatre Company
Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd in Culver City
ends on September 17, 2023
for tickets, call 213.628.2772 or visit CTG

Lilian Rebelo, Ashley Brooke, and Samantha Miller

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael M. Landman-Karny September 18, 2023 at 12:14 pm

I have been reading every review of the show online in a hopeless attempt to understand what the ending was about.

The NYT and the LA Times reviews both basically said: “Great observations on girls… and then it gets weird, which must somehow be a good thing.”


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