[Review] Not If I Die First
By Zenna Newman-Santos
Not If I Die First is a comedy/thriller written by Jordan Baynes and co-directed by Ash Springs and Jordan Baynes.
A crazed killer (Hannah Anderson) crashes a high school party at an isolated cabin, only to become embroiled in the strange events unfolding at this gathering. As partygoers start dropping like flies, it becomes apparent that they have agreed to be murdered by one of their group, in a very particular order. However, someone is trying to sabotage the carefully laid plans of their dichotomous leader, Luciano (Davis Anderson), so Jennifer must uncover two mysteries: who is the killer and who is trying to sabotage their plans?
Or at least that’s what I followed. The plot was convoluted and more than a little confusing for the audience, with a cast that was far too big for the story being told. Performers and characters alike got lost in the twists and turns the plot took. On the note of plot twists, there were very few clues as to the identity of the killer or saboteur throughout the play, so what should have been a climactic reveal fell flat because we’re not afforded the satisfaction of being able to put together the pieces ourselves. There’s also no real explanation of motive for, well, anyone in the show. I was left wondering why Jennifer was so intent on killing these kids to begin with and why they were so set on killing each other first. All we know is that they are “playing a game”, lending the show to comparisons to the Saw franchise and it definitely comes off second best. That being said, there are many genuinely laugh out loud moments throughout the show.
Unfortunately, because of the issues in the script, the performances from the cast suffered. Actors I’ve seen give admirable performances felt blocky and awkward through the show. However, Davis Anderson delivers a strong performance as the group's enigmatic leader, Luciano.
The set design was sparse and utilitarian, to say the least. The only set pieces and dressing were pieces that were directly involved in the plot. Many opportunities for “big reveals” were lost due to the obvious locations.
Overall, this was a somewhat disappointing show. I always try to stay positive while writing reviews for student and community theatre to avoid unnecessary comparisons by holding them to the standard of professional productions. But aspiring to professional standards can spur us on to excellence and prevent complacency, something that seems to have been lost in Not If I Die First.