Writers: Michael Breslin, Patrick Foley
Director: Rory Pelsue
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
This particular reviewer has never seen an episode of the Real Housewives franchise, largely because messy conflict makes her physically uncomfortable. So experiencing Fake Friends’ newest online production, This American Wife, was quite the ride. A live, multi-camera streaming experience live from a Long Island mansion, this show celebrates and eviscerates the cultural phenomenon that is the “slice-of-life” reality series.
Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley (with dramaturgical support from Ariel Sibert and Cat Rodríguez) pull no punches in making this experience as unsettling as possible. Transitioning seamlessly from moments of high camp to quiet introspection, the entire cast (Foley and Breslin, plus Jakeem Dante Powell) give full throated performances, never shying away from that which feels dangerous. To say that this show is sometimes hard to watch is far more a compliment than it sounds; and one would imagine this would feel immersively juicy for viewers more versed in Real Housewives knowledge.
After fifteen months of online performance, This American Wife surprises with new ways to engage a remote audience. The site-specific livestream feels particularly immersive, with cleverly-crafted intercuts and OTF-style interviews to cover quick changes and the like. Costumes by Cole McCarty are stunning and have a true Real Housewives feel. Greenscreen gags abound. The live-ness of it all gives a sense of urgency and “anything can happen” to the piece.
Part love letter, part callout, This American Wife explores the experiences of the audience, the crew, and the casts of its wildly popular source material. For all the recognition and fame, what do the people who choose to be on these shows sacrifice? Are audience members tuning in every week supportive fans or complicit in the exploitation of others’ private lives? There is neither accusation within these questions nor answers to them, but rather a complex, zany, dangerous rollercoaster of a journey through them.
As a Real Housewives neophyte, this reviewer’s experience can only be addressed from the theatrical angle. And the theatrics of This American Wife are unflinchingly on-point. This production is so compelling that even reality-avoidant viewers will be tempted to turn on an episode or two of the original shows to more fully appreciate the brazen, meticulous craft Fake Friends achieve with this production.
Available Through 6 June 2021 | Photo Credit: Nina Goodheart