So you’ve graduated with a liberal arts degree, you’re saddled with a crushing student debt, you’ve moved back home with your parents, and you have absolutely no idea what you want to do with your life. Quarter Life Crisis – The Musical by Lee Cohen, Evan Cohen, Dan Hunt with book and lyrics by Jennifer Turliuk, playing as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, focuses on this phase of life that’s so familiar to so many. The subject should be a slam dunk for musical parody, unfortunately an errant script and lack of focus really tank the show.
Quarter Life Crisis centres on Lenora (Jada Rifkin), a recent grad, now unemployed and boomeranged back to living in her parents’ home. Lenora is also an internet addict and suffers from depression for which she sees two different therapists.
The character starts out as an archetypal Millennial and some of the show’s musical numbers like “I’ve Moved Back Into My Parents House,” and “I’m in Love with the Internet” make an earnest if not entirely successful attempt at satire. I thought the lyrics didn’t so much parody the experiences described in the songs so much as simply describe them. The songs conveyed familiar experiences but didn’t really succeed at sending them up in a way that felt funny or entertaining.
What could have been a cute, clever, upbeat parody quickly spirals into a convoluted story with several superfluous characters and plot twists. There’s an odd and unnecessary subplot where Lenora falls in love with her therapist (James Cheng) that just felt like a tedious detour and then a dark turn in the story with a date rape scene (trigger warning!) which felt laboured and clumsily executed.
In terms of performances, I thought Jada Rifkin sold it for all it was worth and really tried to make the most of the material she was given to work with. The rest of the ensemble only offered what felt like half-hearted performances which really dragged down the energy of the show.
Running at 90 minutes, the show felt interminable and I was restless and shifting in my seat a half-hour in. I think the main problem with the show is that it needs to figure out its tone: it flails wildly between parody and hard-hitting serious subject matter, and it needs to figure out its message–something a little less nihilistic than “everyone’s a bit fucked up”–and then it needs to be edited down to about half its current length.
If the writing team were to cut down all the superfluous characters and story lines to focus on the universality of the experience of the quarter life crisis and worked on punching up the songs with clever lyrics then the show may be salvageable. As it stands now, it was one of the most tedious shows I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.
- Quarter Life Crisis – The Musical is playing until July 12 at Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Ave)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the peformance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
- Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language
- July 01 at 08:15 PM
- July 04 at 05:15 PM
- July 06 at 01:00 PM
- July 07 at 06:30 PM
- July 08 at 03:30 PM
- July 10 at 09:15 PM
- July 12 at 12:00 PM
Photo of Jada Rifkin by Jacob Moriss