As frustrated playwright Chris DeFacto attempts to write the perfect play about dating the perfect woman, he realizes he might be incapable of doing either, and that she may be more out of this world than he thought. My Girlfriend is an Alien! by Chris DeFacto tweaks the romantic comedy genre, setting it in a play-within-a-play, and hilariously examines the flawed search for perfection.
The play opens earlier than most plays do, with the pre-show curtain speech, delivered by none other than our protagonist, Chris DeFacto. Along with the typical required pre-show topics (Thanks for coming, turn off your cell phones, exits are out the front and back), Chris in a moment of apparent weakness feels it necessary to apologize to the audience for the subpar show that they are about to see, and then admits that he plagiarized the idea of the play from another writer. Seemingly unburdened by his admission, he invites the audience to sit back and enjoy the show for what all it’s worth and exits the stage.
The play proper begins with lights up on Chris eating lunch on a park bench. He is joined at a different park bench by Allie, a new coworker that much to his surprise strikes up a conversation with him. Allie reveals herself to be quite a unique, strange, yet oddly delightful individual, and just when it seems Chris and Allie are hitting it off, the scene is interrupted by Rick the stage manager, calling down from the light booth to inform the actors and the audience that the show must stop momentarily because one of the lighting instruments is malfunctioning. Aghast, Chris refuses to give in to his stage manager’s concerns and demands that the show continue, but Allie takes this opportunity to break character and confront Chris in front of the audience about his earlier admission about stealing the play, a fact that she and the rest of the cast apparently were not previously aware of. During their argument, Chris makes an allusion to a moment that passed between the two of them after the show the evening prior, which Allie has no interest in talking about right now, especially in front of a room full of strangers. They agree to put a pin in the conversation and return to the scene, in which Chris and Allie (in character) make plans to get together for a drink after work.
During the ensuing blackout into the next scene, Chris learns from Rick that the stagehand is stuck in traffic and cannot assist in the perfectly choreographed scene change to turn the park into a living room in 30 seconds, leaving Chris to do it himself. Howard bounds in from the backstage to enthusiastically offer his help, which Chris has no choice but to accept even though Howard is his acting partner in the next scene. The difference between Howard the actor and Howard the character is profound; the actor is an earnest and passionate source of positive energy, while Howard the character is a misogynistic and somewhat psychologically abusive friend to Chris, urging to get over his typical weak and fearful tendencies when it comes to women and to “bang” Allie at his first opportunity. Though the method and tone of Howard’s advice is suspect, Chris has to admit that his own disposition towards self-sabotage is something he needs to get over if he wants to succeed with Allie.
The scene-change cue comes up and Rick confirms for Chris that the stagehand is still absent. A visibly beleaguered Chris seems near the end of his rope when the lights change again to a cue he doesn’t recognize. Before Chris can adjust or get an answer from Rick about what’s happening, Doubt creeps onstage and startles our hero. This is clearly not part of the play as written, and the mysterious figure with an oily moustache, black hat and cape is not there to make things easier for Mr. DeFacto. Doubt knows exactly what buttons to push to bring Chris down, rubbing in his face the unfortunate state of tonight’s performance of a play that really had no hope of being much good even under the best of circumstances (even going so far as to read a scathing review of the play from a fictional newspaper), and pointing out the certainty of his failure when it comes to any kind of relationship with Allie now that she knows he stole the play. By the time Doubt creeps away, Chris is left staring dumbly at the ceiling at the burnt-out lighting instrument, until Rick wakes him from his reverie and urges him to get on with the next scene.
The next scene is Chris and Allie’s date night, in which we learn the similarities and differences between these two strange and lonely people. Chris is a man who has lived a sheltered life controlled by the limitations that he has placed on himself based on self-protection and the fear of getting hurt. Allie on the other hand is eager to experience the world and all that life has to offer after recently arriving here from a place where “there just aren’t many options.” When Chris delivers a monologue revealing that just being around Allie makes him want to break through his all-consuming impulse for playing it safe at all times and taking a chance on something that could cause him pain, Allie the actress is overcome and breaks character to say how disappointed she is that she can no longer truly believe in the play and the writer that she’d come to respect so greatly. The moment is short lived and they go on with the scene, which ends with a sweet and tender kiss between the two characters.
The lights go to black and Allie exits the stage, but Chris finds it impossible to simply go on the next scene. Giving in to his overwhelming feelings, Chris leaves the stage and surprises Allie backstage, and informs her that he needs to tell her something that can’t wait until after the show is over. Chris bares his soul and reveals that Allie was, from the very beginning, the inspiration for mounting this production of his self-written (stolen) play, in his hope that they could get to know each other and perhaps fall in love. Allie had forgotten that the two of them had actually met briefly a year earlier. Chris was so taken by her that he conceived of this production in the hopes she would audition and join the cast. In the ensuing weeks and months, he’s learned that the reality of her is even more incredible than the fantasy he’d built up in his mind after first meeting her. Allie is understandably alarmed but also, despite herself, incredibly flattered and intrigued. It’s revealed that the two of them shared a kiss after the performance the night before, and then Chris instantly seemed to regret it and pull away, hurting Allie’s feelings. Chris apologizes and blames his fear of getting hurt. They come to an understanding and agree to talk after the play ends. In the meantime, Chris remembers there’s an audience full of people waiting for the play to continue.
Chris’s feelings of satisfaction and relief are short-lived, for seconds after leaving Allie and returning to the stage, Reality enters and literally slaps Chris in the face. Like Doubt, Reality has an innate talent at knowing exactly how to dismantle Chris’s confidence and determination. By the time Reality gets done with him, Chris is at a lower point than ever, so much so that he decides in the moment that the show simply can’t go on, tonight and from now on, announcing to the audience that they’re all free to go and they will be reimbursed for the price of their tickets.
Before anyone has a chance to leave however, Frazia erupts from the backstage to shoot down Chris’s plans and force him to at least perform her scene, as she was able to get an agent to come to the performance that night. Chris acquiesces and they perform the scene in its entirety, in which Frazia plays a no-nonsense special government agent of some kind who interrogates Chris, more harshly than necessary, about his feelings for his coworker Allie. Frazia admonishes him for his feelings of tenderness toward her and even for his natural sexual attraction for her. Eventually she reveals that Allie is an alien from outer space, and that Chris had better keep his guard up.
Allie enters the stage to begin the next scene, not realizing that Chris had just announced the show was over. As the scene continues, the similarities between the play that Chris wrote – including the personal issues he unconsciously put into the writing – and the current circumstances of his real relationship with Allie and art in general, become entangled and increasingly difficult to tell apart from each other. An argument ensues and Allie lets Chris have it for being the ultimate coward, never following through on anything, including the play which he didn’t bother to give a satisfying ending (revealing that when the mothership comes to take the alien away, it lands on him). She exits in tears while all Chris can do is revert to reciting lines from the play in lieu of actually engaging with her and working through the problem, even after she leaves. As the lights fade to black, Chris crumbles into a fetal position on the floor.
When it seems all is lost, one more figment of Chris’s imagination appears. At first we don’t know the nature of this soul or whether she is benevolent or there to dole out more punishment, but the first thing she achieves is to remind Chris of the day that the idea for his play first came to him, the day after meeting Allie for the first time, and the mixture of feelings that it produced when he recognized that perhaps the only hope for someone so strange and alienated and alone to find love is to happen upon someone just as strange and otherworldly. She also gets him to admit that his claim of not writing the play himself was the ultimate method in distancing himself from the risk that all artists take when they reveal a deep part of themselves to the world. Chris has a breakdown and the truth comes out in a flood of emotional catharsis, in which he reveals all of his fears and unfortunate lack of confidence in himself and artistic abilities. The figment, revealed as Intuition, reminds him that despite all of that, at the heart of it all is the fact that he cares, which is really the most important thing of all. After she exits, the burnt-out lighting instrument on which Chris has been fixated throughout the play suddenly comes to life, and Chris is filled with the will to make things right.
At that moment, Allie the actress enters in her street clothes, carrying her bags, and is surprised to find the audience still present. Chris comes clean to her and admits that the play was his creation all along, and that they must complete the performance, a proposition she finds absolutely ridiculous. He apologizes for all of his behavior and lack of commitment and explains that he now understands that his integrity as an artist and a human being depends on his dedication to seeing things through, even when they become difficult and emotionally fraught. She points out to him that finishing the performance will only serve to remind him on how he failed in his writing of the play in the first place, as the ending is such a downer. He sees her point, but comes up with an alternative: Make up a new, better ending on the spot. She refuses, citing her annoyance with this whole thing and her hatred of improv, but Chris continues trying to convince her that it’s important, not just for himself, but for her. It seems that he has tapped in to a similar fear inside her about taking chances and following through, and he now knows that finishing this play is of utmost importance for the both of them.
Despite Allie’s unwillingness, she is given no choice to stay by the sudden enthusiastic participation of Howard (who is always up for anything) and Frazia (looking for any further chance to impress the agent). Eventually, Allie has no choice but to give in to her three castmates’ commitment to creating a new ending, and with Chris’s desperate plea for her to give it the final, meaningful twist that he knows is in her to provide. She reveals that it was actually Chris DeFacto all along that was the true alien, brought to this planet when he was a child and made to believe that he was on Earth, which explains why all along he never felt like he belonged. But while this might seem like a sad reveal, the truth is that the reason they brought him there is because the planetary elders liked him so much, and thought he made a great addition to their planet, and just couldn’t bear to see him go.
They all agree that this is a satisfying end to the play and that they succeeded in seeing it through all the way. Chris addresses the audience and thanks them for staying with them through their journey, and proclaims that his name is Chris DeFacto and the play they just saw was written by him… with a little help.
–Steven Leigh Morris, Stage Raw
Chris DeFacto: Our playwright and lead actor that goes through a crisis of confidence and self-worth in real time during the course of the performance. Despite his faults, his heart is in the right place and no one can say that he doesn’t put himself out there.
Allie: The alien, or rather the actress that was tricked by DeFacto into playing the alien in this ramshackle production of a new play. Incredibly patient but also more than capable of standing up for herself, and incidentally a very talented actress.
Rick: The surly stage manager who seems to care more about aesthetics than how the play is actually going, Rick is a constant thorn in the side of DeFacto.
Howard: Within the play that DeFacto wrote, Howard is your typical Affliction-wearing unevolved male best friend, but Howard the actor is a gentle, supportive, and almost too friendly kind soul that just wants to put on a good play.
Doubt: The first of three figments of DeFacto’s psyche that visit him during the course of the performance, Doubt is dressed up like an old-timey top-hatted villain, appearing out of nowhere to tear DeFacto down in front of everyone.
Reality: The second figment, Reality literally slaps DeFacto in the face just as he’s maybe starting to get things together, and proceeds to completely eviscerate all of his hopes and dreams.
Frazia: Both as the actor and the character she portrays in DeFacto’s play, Frazia is tough as nails and seems to take some joy in beating up emotionally on DeFacto. She’s looking for her big break, and she just started taking improv classes, so watch out.
Inspiration: The third figment is more mysterious than the others and ultimately proves to be a benevolent spirit that leads DeFacto to understand what he needs to know about how to proceed, without telling him in so many words and allowing him to find it himself.
Note: In this world, the writer Chris DeFacto didn’t bother giving the characters unique names, and therefore all of the characters within the play-within-the-play share the names of the actors portraying them (not counting the figments: Doubt, Reality and Inspiration).
To make things more interesting, it would be to the author’s delight if in any productions of this play, all of the characters’ names are changed to the first names of the actors portraying those roles. This isn’t a necessity, and would result in the very title of the play being different for every production, i.e., “My Girlfriend is an Alien! by Amit DeFacto”, but it’s something to consider.
Setting: A theater, anywhere. Present day.
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“Charlie Kaufman Fans Might Dig This Metatheatrical Rom-Com.” –LA Weekly
“Neil McGowan’s topsy-turvy, Pirandellian funhouse of a romantic comedy… is an unwavering delight” – LA Weekly
“That said, My Girlfriend is also a very funny and very clever play about a play about a play… “ –Stage Raw
“…a merry romp through the dangers of dating…” –LA Splash
“A fresh look at a topic that has stimulated and intrigued playwrights for hundreds of years. Expect the unexpected” – LA Splash
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The production materials for My Girlfriend is an Alien by Chris DeFacto include:
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