I imagine that performing alone before an audience for forty-five minutes is far from easy, however, comedian/actress Kelley Quinn makes a fair first attempt in Discharged, a one-woman show by Erin Webreck.
Over the course of the play Quinn introduces us to four characters whose lives are interconnected, some more directly linked than others. Catherine and Amelia, sisters, have the most distinct and emotional relationship. Don and Hannah have a subtler connection and bookend the performance. The characters have an inherited societal role as Father, Daughter, Sister and Partner, which is unsettling for them.
Webreck’s playwriting is cheeky and honest. Each character carries bitterness and a definite emotional weight. Fortunately, the writing is as sarcastic as it is heavy, which makes for as many laughs as there are thoughtful pauses. Her characters are not far from their edge. At one point, Hannah, a distraught mother, describes a woman she saw on TV, as being “stuck trying desperately to get unstuck.” That state of being stuck is consistent in each characters dilemma.
We get roughly fifteen minutes with each of them and Quinn demonstrates her flexibility as an actress. She felt most at home in Amelia, where she began to reach an emotional climax. Amelia gave us the most to work with amongst the four. She unpacked her history with her sister and connected to her present day relationship with her, which is quite sad.
In Amelia we saw a a tug at the truth of what the character was really experiencing. With Don and Catherine, the emotional stuff they were going through got lost in the drama of it. More emotion out of Hannah and Don would have allowed for us to be drawn in closer to their experience.
Quinn found ways to pull the audience in by turning us into the shoulder to lean on or the strangers at the bus stop. More of this would be in her favor, as the audience seemed ready to react.
The story is there, the experiences are universal. It seems it’s just a matter of allowing the characters to come more to life in the brief time we had with them
Discharged has 5 performances, ending July 29, 2012, at Caos on F, 923 F Street NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Breena rates this 2 out of a possible 5.