One woman show misses mark
A one-person comedy show is a slippery slope of potential for either success, or disaster. Since there is only one performer on stage, there is absolutely no distraction for the audience if the jokes are falling flat, or if said performer messes up their routine.
Considering how difficult it is to perform in a solo show, it is impressive that Dayna Dooley, an actress, singer, spokesmodel and writer native to Southern California, had the courage to create her very own one-woman show titled Daynaland. The show is advertised as a âtrip to the nuttiest place on earthâ, and is designed to showcase Dooleyâs comedic versatility by having her portray nine distinctly different female characters from around the world. The show also claims to âmerge the power of digital media with the intimacy and spontaneity of live theatreâ.
Â The problem with these claims is that they are not fulfilled in the show. Although Dooley clearly put a lot of heart and effort into her performance, the whole thing did not tie together the way a successful one-person piece of theatre should.
For starters, the advertised âmediaâ aspect of the show consisted of three painted theatre flats onto which a series of pre-recorded videos were projected intermittently throughout the performance. Indeed, the opening of the show was a pre-recorded video of Dooley as an âincompetent tour guideâ character that introduced the audience to the different woman and locations right before the new skit would begin. Later on, once a skit would end, the projection would show the previous character appearing on the screen, and vaguely interacting with all of the other characters that came before her.
The issue with this technique was the fact that it detracted, rather than added, to the show. It was a very interesting concept, but unfortunately the conversations that the characters had amongst themselves on the screen were stilted, awkward, and were quite visibly just a time-filler, while Dooley changed into her next costume.
Â In addition, this use of technology brought with it an awkward number of technical errors. From backgrounds not loading fast enough, to the mouse cursor still being visible on screen, the whole thing felt unrehearsed and unprofessional.
The late, lengthy and noisy set-changes did little to help detract from these mistakes. Lighting operator Ray Taylor Smith was either late for his cues, or seemed to forget when to turn the lights on and off â often leaving the crew to fumble around the stage in darkness, or rather fleeing offstage as the main lights were turned on before they were supposed to.
These mistakes led to an alienating effect during the character transitions, and the momentum and aura of theatrically suspended disbelief that each skit had previously gained was quickly lost.
This was unfortunate, as many of the skits were not as strong as they should have been for a professional performance at such an esteemed venue, as the Stella Adler Theatre. Though Dooley clearly put a lot of energy and passion into her work, the overall effect was unfortunately not a successful one.
For starters, Dooley utilized different accents and dialects to coincide with the âtravellingâ concept of the show. Unfortunately, her accents kept failing at random moments during her performance, and were merely caricatures of accents, rather than the proper versions of executing them. Also, though Dooleyâs characters were technically âdistinctâ from each other in that they dressed differently, talked about different subject matters and had unique quirks about them, ultimately Dooley seemed to be playing a different variation of the same person. Her jokes, catchphrases and scenarios were all very repetitive â going from phrases like âDonât you judge meâ to simple repetitions of âI did, mhm I did tell youâ. The first few times, these sassy turn of phrases were very funny and effective, but after hearing them over and over throughout different sketches, the humor got old very quickly.
Accompanying this repetitive nature of the show, Dooley also lacked a sense of balance in her performances. While she did have a good and noticeable stage presence, Dooley seemed to lose focus.
The final baffling aspect of the show was the sudden switch from stand-up comedy style characters and subjects to subjects and characters of a much more serious, and dark nature. With no warning or effective transition, Dooley jumped from a funny, ridiculous stripper character, to playing a mentally handicapped girl talking about how she wished to be ânormalâ. This sudden, stark contrast would have been believable and powerful had there been an underlying theme to the show, but since the characters werenât linked to each other in any regard, these sudden mood shifts were graceless at best, and slightly offensive at worst.
Now, itâs a shame that the whole of the show did not play out the way that Dooley envisioned it, considering her obvious talent and passion for her work. In an interview after the show, Dooley even mentioned her struggles and continual perseverance in the face of rejection in regards to this show.
âLA and this business is all no, no, no,â said Dooley as she tearfully thanked her producer Derrick D. Pete for believing in her and helping her finance the show.
And even though the entirety of the performance did not quite click and flow, it did contain some golden highlights that were both funny and impressive. For example, Dooley elicited many laughs from her portrayal of sassy stripper proudly bragging about her childrenâs future stripping careers, as well as showed off her incredible operatic range whilst playing a diva opera-singer.
Perhaps with a bit more focus, less jitteriness and nervousness on stage, and a lot more rehearsal (especially on the side of the crew), Daynaland could truly live up to its potential. Either way, itâs truly an experience within itself.