REVIEW: Aiming for Sainthood (Victory Gardens)

 

The Good Girl

 

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Victory Gardens Fresh-Squeezed presents
  
Aiming for Sainthood
   
Written and performed by Arlene Malinowski
Directed by Will Rogers
Richard Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
through September 26  |  tickets: $20  |  more info 

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Arlene Malinowski’s comic one-act monologue, Aiming for Sainthood, is about being an adult child of deaf parents, right in the middle of her mother’s struggle against cancer. Or, is she more a childlike adult—for Arlene’s vacation trip to her parents’ home in New Jersey alters radically after the out-of-the-blue discovery that Mom has cancer. From that point on everything Arlene attempts as damage control throws her back into the childhood state she knew before leaving home. Onstage at Victory Gardens’s Richard Christiansen Theater for only six performances, Malinowski’s warm and witty tale about managing the unmanageable in the face of mortality is sure to delight audiences familiar with the separate cultures and experiences created by deafness or other lifelong disabilities.

Aiming for Sainthood's Arlene Malinowski - with horns!Malinowski’s storytelling performance is funny and outgoing. Will Rogers direction keeps the pace moving around Nick Seiben’s sensible and subtly intriguing set. “I’m all about getting it done,” says Arlene, taking responsibility for Mom’s care, little suspecting her family’s battle with cancer will be a long and draining one that demands immense personal sacrifice from her. Malinowski lightens that struggle with accounts of running into various characters at the hospital, recollections of her thoroughly Catholic childhood, and the recognizable facets of Jersey culture. There’s Butch, the uber-practical gay male nurse in salmon-colored scrubs and Ruby, one of the hospital’s “regulars” who keeps passing out free coupons to the cafeteria. Finally, there’s Arlene’s Dad, who has a very poetic deaf way of telling people they’re stupid, and her sister, Diana, who gets off easy by being the perpetual baby of the family.

Malinowski’s abilities to humorously relate her tale need no critical coaching from the sidelines—a fact pounded home to me by the audience’s delighted response to her script and well-timed performance. From my own chair, I found her handling of these themes a little on the lite side. Think Erma Bombeck meets The Savages meets Late Night Catechism—nice is the sentiment that overwhelms Aiming for Sainthood. If nice and lite is how you like humor about facing down mortality, shouldering the burdens of caretaking, crises of faith and dealing with less-than-responsible siblings, this is your show. All those looking for darker, weightier humor will need to go elsewhere.

I, for one, was almost palpably relieved once Malinowski started acknowledging her propensity for self-neglect in her self-martyrdom. “My head throbs and I smell like a food court,” she says, once Mom’s stay in the hospital has been extended and extended. Taking on all the responsibility has reduced her to junk food, sweatpants and day time television. “I’ll take Perfect Daughters for a thousand, Alex,” she cracks, still thinking her return home to her husband in Los Angeles is imminent.

Malinowski’s humor exists to keep the darkness at bay. Since Arlene is capable of having her own miraculous revelations and since Mom ultimately survives cancer, why not? I left the theater feeling this play’s lightness, but not much depth. However, looking into the contented and moved faces of audience members as they were leaving, I realized that there are disparate ways to deal with resentment and pain. Whatever works.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
  
  

The production runs September 20-26, 2010, in the in the Richard Christiansen Theater at Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

 

 

 

Extra Credit:

 

Arlene Malinowski is an actor/playwright who views her solo work as an extension of the social justice issues she has been committed to for the last 25 years.  Her five solo shows have been produced and performed in venues nationwide.  Her work has been honored with a 3Arts Nomination, LA Theatre Ovations nomination, LA Weekly Award, and a Garland Award.  Television credits include CSI, ER, The Practice, The X Files, Any Day Now, The Division, Sweet Nothing in My Ear.  Arlene has taught in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. She is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and Artist in Residence with the 2011 Quad City’s Arts Program.

Will Rogers is Associate Producer of Victory Gardens Fresh Squeezed.  As part of the series he has directed Arlene Malinowski’s previous solo-show What Does the Sun Sound Like?, Margot Bordelon’s You Are Here and Literally Sexy.  Within Fresh Squeezed, he has also had the privilege of producing work with 2nd Story, The Neo-Futurists, The New Colony, 16th Street Theater, Drinking & Writing Brewery, Mike Daisey, Tim Miller, Holly Hughes, WNYC’s Radiolab, Charles Busch, Julie Halston, Terry Galloway, and many more.  In Chicago, Will has directed Silent Night of the Lambs and the Summer Camp reading of Marked Down Woman for Hell in a Handbag Productions.  Will most recently produced and directed Busch Fest, a festival of four early works by Charles Busch, with his company The Idea Place. Will is an alumnus of Lincoln Center Directors Lab and Directors Lab Chicago.  Previous to his move to Chicago, he directed in Austin, TX; Freedom, ME; Birmingham, AL; and Savannah, GA.

About Fresh Squeezed

Fresh Squeezed brings together provocative and exemplary artists in a series of special performances seeking out new, diverse audiences. Through language, music, poetry and history, Fresh Squeezed explores the varied ways theater is being performed today and surveys the performing arts medium to bring fresh new perspectives to the stage.

Fresh Squeezed encourages new people to visit the theater and poke around. Not just new audiences — but also new writers and performers and cultures and ideas. We are a theater dedicated to tending new plays, and in our rapidly diversifying cultural landscape, Fresh Squeezed allows us to cast a wide net and find hidden treasures that are relevant to our community. But don’t get the wrong idea; it doesn’t all have to be that heady. Victory Gardens is about some nonsense and laughter too.

Logistics and Amenities

Tickets

Tickets, $20 or $15 for Group and Access, are available through the Victory Gardens Box Office, 773.871.3000 (tty: 773.871.0682), tickets@victorygardens.org, or www.victorygardens.org. For group discounts, 773.549.5788, groupsales@victorygardens.org.

Performance Schedule

The production opens on Monday, September 20, at 7:30 p.m. and continues Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. All performances will be sign interpreted. The September 23 and 26 performances will be Audio Described and will feature word for word captioning.

3 Responses

  1. Referring to deafness as a “lifelong disability” is not going to win you any fans from the Deaf community.

  2. I do beg your pardon. My own unfamiliarity with deafness, its cultural as well as health impact, may have left me with an outdated vocabulary with which to express myself. Looks like I shall have to research more and update. Thank you.

  3. My friend ushered the play one evening and said it was terrific. As a CODA, I would love to see it but I’m not in the Chicago area. Do you have any plans to take the show to the South Florida area?

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