REVIEW: Almost a Genius

A Brilliantly Honest Show

Almost A GeniusMaria Wojciechowski’s “Almost A Genius” is the most brilliantly honest show I have ever seen. This show explores the tragedy of mood disorders and depression with dark comedic undertones. “Almost A Genius” is an extremely professional, thoughtful, creative, multi-media event that will leave your heart aching but filled with love and compassion all at the same time.

Maria does a brilliant job balancing smart comedy with dark double entendres throughout this entire show. She opens wearing a banana suit delivering a number of one-liner banana jokes that also relate to split mood disorders. She then addresses the audience as herself and discloses that she has been battling with depression since she was a teenager and attempted suicide. But it was after a bad break-up that she finally sought help. She was then diagnosed with a severe case of bipolar disorder with psychotic features and a panic disorder. However, she was also informed that she was technically, “almost a genius” and she then proceeds to educate the audience more on what these varying illnesses entail, concluding that “”freaky friday-ing is scientifically impossible.”

This show is constantly moving and flowing with ups and downs and every piece of it resembles, in some small way, what it might be like to live in the mind of someone with a mental illness. It never stops. It has high highs and big laughs and it has low lows and unadulterated honesty and pain. The transitions are seamless, narrated with a recorded song by Maria leading into the next “topic.”

She dances through a number of colorful characters throughout this show, each appropriately placed to illustrate every point she wants to communicate. Whether it’s an inappropriately sexual high school art teacher, a beautiful dancing bird, a suicidal teen, a singing nun from The Sound of Music or a broadway diva, Maria has created each of these characters with devout intent and they are all individually funny, lively and silently torn.

She also delivers some spot-on one-liners, which I have already been tempted to use in my daily life. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • I have the Taylor Swift syndrome – I’m always a victim.”
  • “You’re not a real woman until you’ve had a cervical cancer scare.”
  • “I don’t want a boyfriend, I just want more text messages.”
  • “Today on Twitter, I lost a follower. Now I know how Jesus feels everyday.”

The show comes to a close with this parting thought, “I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this, is sometimes the most human part about being a functioning human being is not being able to function. And you would understand that…if you were almost a genius.” It was the most gorgeous way to tie up all the flowing strands of this show. Maria then comes out as herself and ends the show as herself, just a human who is struggling with life, loss and stability. It is the most humanizing moment where she captures the hearts of every audience member and a few tears are shed by all as she closes the show with a very honest and grateful farewell.

For those of us who aren’t diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s very easy to accept that we just won’t ever know “what it’s really like.” Sometimes we say things like “That’s driving me crazy!” without realizing that statement has the potential to be offensive to people who are living with a mental illness. Maria has put together this show yes, to entertain, but largely to humanize mental illness and help educate those of us who are more naive as to what it all means. “Almost A Genius” offers up the opportunity to ask questions and not feel judged or violated and encourages those who may be suffering from depression to reach out for help.

I have never been more moved by any single live production. Maria has invested all of herself into this show with such honesty and bravery and it shines in every detail, light flicker and word spoken. “Almost A Genius” is the most heartfelt, creative and smart production I have seen in Chicago thus far and is a true testament to the power of this art form.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Maria.

 

“Almost A Genius” is playing on Tuesdays at 10pm at The Playground throughout the month of September. Tickets are $5 and all proceeds will be donated to Depression and Biploar support groups in Chicago and Mobile, Alabama.

Do yourself a favor and make the time to see this show. You will not regret it. 

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Reviews

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