By Chance Morgan
Schuyler Quinn’s “Unsatisfactory” has the sort of title that invites all manner of cheap jokes, but luckily the show itself surpasses that mark. “Unsatisfactory” is Ms. Quinn’s colorful and enthusiastic account of her school years, framed as a college interview. Over her nearly ninety-minute performance, Ms. Quinn takes the audience through the five wildly different schools she’d attended (from a Quaker program, to a barely-disguised asylum, to an affluent private school outside Miami) and what each taught her about herself and about life.
Ms. Quinn in no way shies away from the more disquieting or unusual aspects of her story, such as when she threw a stapler through her principal’s office window (which prompted said principal to call the police on a prepubescent girl) and her rendition of the “Dreamgirls” hit “And I Am Telling You” in her high school musical, aimed squarely at the young man who broke up with her before the performance. Ms. Quinn presents herself without apology, commenting on her learning difficulties, rebellious attitude, and her unique and passionate worldview. Most of all, she examines herself through the best lens available to many young people: their school and the people within it. Such self-examination is difficult enough with only one school, but Ms. Quinn has five, all of which shaped her in unique and unexpected ways.
Much like the side of Ms. Quinn the audience gets to know, “Unsatisfactory” could benefit from a measure of restraint. Although the show ran longer than it might have with a tighter focus on a more polished narrative, Ms. Quinn’s story might not actually lend itself to such restrictions. Similarly, the levels of energy and emotion seemed to remain quite high throughout, and an opportunity to slow down for a moment or two would not have been unwelcome. Appropriately enough, Ms. Quinn herself provides an excellent description of “Unsatisfactory” (although in the context of the show, the words describe her long-ago performance in “The Diary of Anne Frank”): “raw, if slightly bewildered.”
“Unsatisfactory” is at once highly relatable and fiercely one-of-a-kind, and yet, much like the years of youth it captures, has more energy than focus. Ms. Quinn’s spirit is simultaneously intensely magnetic and somewhat overwhelming, always seeming to leave a bit of distance from those around her. However, anyone can relate to some aspect of her story, even if it isn’t the adventurous passion of youth we have all known. As Ms. Quinn herself says about what she has learned from her journey, “I can talk to anyone about something.”
Written and Performed by Schuyler Quinn
Oct. 10 at 3:30pm
Producer: Rachel Dodson
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
CHANCE MORGAN is a writer and director currently based in New Jersey. He has worked for Dorset Theatre Festival, Northern Stage, and Bay Street Theatre. He is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University’s theatre program, and spends his time developing his screenplays and musicals.