Directed by Will Rogers
Playing at Victory Gardens Theatre (upstairs)
A Story about Life
Arlene Malinowski sets the right tone for her one woman show before it even begins. You just can’t beat walking into a room playing Bruce Springsteen, and not his post 9/11 patriotic stuff, but the poetically rockin’ hits from the 80’s. He’s the boss, until Arlene steps onto the stage and takes over. She instantly connects with the audience in a personal style that gives each viewer the sense that she is talking to them one-on-one, telling them unique life experiences along with intense emotionally relatable struggles. She tells us her story through words and sign language in a way that brings all the members of her family to life in her one person show.
Growing up in a loving devout Christian Family with both her mother and father being deaf, Malinowski has a unique point of view and she is able to share that with the audience in a way that is absolutely hilarious, when she is not making you cry. She creatively describes the comforting voices of her parents and the loving, protective feelings their voices invoke inside her, while recreating those voices for us to hear. She is able to embrace the humor in the differences between people, while creating a feeling of commonality amongst everyone.
Through out the performance Malinowski beautifully paints scenes and memories through detailed description of the sounds of her home, hospital and the people around her. Every moment is depicted in such intense detail by touching on the viewer’s sense of sound. The noises of a hospital when brought back to life in such detail brought out untouched emotions, and will for all of those viewers who have experienced nervously waiting in a hospital for days on to days.
As her mother is fighting cancer, and not as quickly as expected, she reminisces and lets us into her heart and her journey from assisting her parents as a child so that they can get things done in a world that all to often assumes everyone can hear, to a time when she has to double check her mother’s medical attention. She questions, out right turns her back on God, and eloquently defends her skepticisms with rational statements as to how humans believe in God just to feel more comfortable with what they can’t understand. One of my favorite lines is that “Man created God in his own image, not the other way around.” Even better is her disgust in the idea that in heaven her parents would be whole and able to hear, as if they are not whole now. But her struggles lead her to open up to the possibility of a compassionate higher power. Without leaving her realistic story Arlene Malinowski introduces a small miracle that gives her new hope and belief in God and the beauty of a loving family.
Malinowski’s honest portrayal of a loving family and each very different and deeply developed member is relatable and one of the funniest shows of the year. Playing in an intimate space, with a performer that connects with her audience as if she is talking to them in her living room, this show will strike at all of your senses and arouse an abundance of emotions that will culminate in you leaving with a strong sense of joy and hope. Aiming For Sainthood and Arlene Malinowski are absolutely wonderful.
Date Reviewed: September 20, 2010
For full show information, check out the Aiming For Sainthood page at TheatreInChicago.
Playing at Victory Gardens Theater, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm through September 26th, tickets are $20, or call 773-871-3000.