It seems like Danielle Doiron is trying to write a satirical play about the expectations of naive wannabe “actresses” versus the cutting reality of show business in Help, I’m Having a Quarter Life Crisis, but the challenge for the audience is that her character, Emma-Claire is so endearingly pitiable we end up feeling too bad to laugh at her.
This is not a disaster; however, because there are the makings of a compelling play here and it begins right at the end of the piece. For the entire play Emma-Claire is characterized as being a miserable, untalented, stubborn and entirely clueless girl determined to become a famous actress. Yet, at the very end it is revealed that she is actually a gorgeous singer, which changes the audience’s entire perspective of her and on the play. Doiron needs to be clearer whether she wants her play to be a critique on the stereotypical perils of being overly cocky and underprepared for a life in the theatre or whether she would like to tell the story of one individual girl’s journey that is heartrending and sweet and rooted in realism. I think either choice will work for Doiron but she needs to make her choices more boldly and definitively.
I also think Doiron would benefit from taking a close look at the dramaturgical construction of dialogue in one person plays to make sure that all her scenes further the plot and don’t drag down the momentum of the monologues. There is more room for these scenes to be streamlined and condensed, which will cut down on the continual circular motion of the play and allow this to be more gradual and sparse, which will have a stronger impact. I liked the through line concerning the fish; it was poetic, unexpected, funny and gave Emma-Claire a distinctive personality trait.
I think the audience is far closer to empathizing with poor Emma-Claire than laughing at her. Doiron as a performer wears her heart on her sleeve and we want to be able to connect with her. I’d like to see the play where this is encouraged more obviously.
Help, I’m Having a Quarter Life Crisis played at the Museum of Natural History as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival and has closed.