Review: All Kinds of Crazy (16th Street Theater)

| August 12, 2012
Arlene Malinowski performs her one-woman play, "All Kinds of Crazy", at 16th Street Theater, directed by Will Rogers.        
       
All Kinds of Crazy 

Written and Performed by Arlene Malinowski 
Directed by Will Rogers
at 16th Street Theater, Berwyn (map)
thru Aug 18  |  tickets: $18   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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‘Crazy’ deserves a longer stay

     

Arlene Malinowski performs her one-woman play, "All Kinds of Crazy", at 16th Street Theater, directed by Will Rogers.

    
16th Street Theater presents
    
All Kinds of Crazy

Review by Catey Sullivan 

Midway through Arlene Malinowski’s thoroughly compelling one-woman show All Kinds of Crazy, the playwright/actor describes sitting in a psychiatrist’s office, desperately seeking solutions in alleviating a “bone ripping depression that knocked me down with the force of a fire hose.” The doctor starts talking medication, which initially sounds hopeful: The disease may be irrational, but approached rationally, you can fix it. Thankfully, there is science to treat a malady that leaves you envious after reading the obituaries. Or is there?

“We don’t understand how these drugs work,” says the doctor. “Or why they work. Or if they work at all.”

Playwright Arlene Malinowski performs her one-woman play, "All Kinds of Crazy", at 16th Street Theater, directed by Will Rogers. Arlene Malinowski playwright, 16th Street Theater, All Kinds of CrazyAt which point, Malinowski gets a look on her face that’s a mix of rage, despair, incredulity and encroaching hysteria. It’s a telling moment that captures the undeniable humor that comes from facing life’s worst absurdities: There is little reliable science when it comes to treating (never mind curing) depression. Treatment is positively medieval, more a matter of alchemy and luck than empirical data.

Directed by Will Rogers, Malinowski’s autobiographical journey down the bottomless snake pit of mental illness is self-aware without being self-centered and marvelously performed; Malinowski portrays herself as well as members of her extended family, her husband and the parade of physicians who attempted to treat her. Malinowski’s battle with the black dog is harrowing; at her nadir – which was often – she became literally paralyzed with despair, collapsing on the floor of a supermarket and hiding in the bathroom at fancy corporate New Year’s Eve gala. On her better days, the days when she could get out of bed, she spent up to 14 hours creating elaborate simulated worlds on her computer, sometimes drowning her virtual husband in the swimming pool of her carefully constructed fantasy house.

Such a tale of crippling mental illness could easily be an exercise in self-pity or self-indulgence. Malinowski does, after all, spend 90 minutes talking about herself, her problems and her treatment. But All Kinds of Crazy is neither self-pitying nor self-centered. It’s fascinating, and it tells the story of a complex, compelling and wonderfully flawed character. That last comes from Malinowski’s ability to see the view from outside of herself, even as she is trapped deep in the illness within herself.

“Christ, I sound like a 14 year old emo girl. Don’t you want to punch me?” she asks, somewhat rhetorically after reading a journal entry that does indeed sound akin to the whining of a junior high school drama queen. It’s that kind of clarity that perhaps helped Malinowski survive the worst of the worst, and that informs this superior production.

A crucial reason why All Kinds of Crazy works so well lies in its duality. On the one hand, Malinowski doesn’t shy away, not even a little, in describing what it’s like to live in the belly of a beast that doesn’t fight fair. She captures the horror vividly, whether declaring her conviction that she’s ceased to be a person and exists only as a burden or describing the constant physical exhaustion that makes pulling up her socks seem as overwhelming as climbing Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. But amid the uncompromising brutality of depicting the impact of the disease, Malinowski also keeps a sense of humor. All Kinds of Crazy never becomes dreary. Its humor is pitch dark to be sure. Not everybody can pull off a joke about the lethal advantages of gas ovens over their electric counterparts. Malinowski can, and it’s that steely ability to be able to laugh in the face of suicidal ideation and inexact science that gives All Kinds of Crazy so much of its verve.

The rise and fall of Malinowski’s depression is the centerpiece of her performance, but it’s surrounded by a detailed backdrop of family dynamics.. Delving into a 60-year family secret uncovered on ancient library microfiche, Malinowski skillfully illustrates the pernicious role genetics can play in mood disorders. There’s revelation, tragedy and ultimately redemption woven through her family’s secrets and successes, and Malinowski plays various members – including her deaf parents – with wonderful vividness.

All Kinds of Crazy is having a sadly limited run at 16th Street Theater. It deserves a longer stay.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

All Kinds of Crazy continues through August 18th at 16th Street Theater, 6420 16th Street, Berwyn (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm.  Tickets are $18, and are available by phone (708-795-6704) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at 16thStreetTheater.org(Running time: 90 minutes)

Playwright Arlene Malinowski performs her one-woman play, "All Kinds of Crazy", at 16th Street Theater, directed by Will Rogers. Arlene Malinowski playwright, 16th Street Theater, All Kinds of Crazy


     

artists

cast

Arlene Malinowski 

behind the scenes

Will Rogers (director);  Barry Bennett (sound design); Mac Vaughey (lighting); Rachelle Rocky Kolecke (stage manager)

12-0811

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Category: 16th Street Theater, 2012 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Monologue

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