Review: APT’s honest, moving ‘Mala’ takes good care

Posted August 22, 2023


By Lindsay Christians | The Capital Times | August 21, 2023

Driving her disoriented father back from where he wandered, late at night down a four-lane road, the narrator of “Mala” turns to her terrified daughter.

“I promise you,” she says. “I will never be that old.”

The central character in Melinda Lopez’s poetic, deeply real one-woman play, running through Oct. 5 in the Touchstone at American Players Theatre, makes a lot of promises.

She swears to herself that she’ll take her mother to the emergency room no matter what — “for a blister, for a stomachache, for a sneeze.”

And as her mother declines, the longest, shortest time later: “I decide my mother will never go to the emergency room again.”

These contradictions, tied up in the relentlessness of care work, surround the beating heart of “Mala,” directed by Rosa Joshi and embodied by Nancy Rodriguez. Premiered in Boston in 2016, “Mala” is autobiographical (though also a composite) and lightly bilingual, written while Lopez was caring for her terminally ill mother.

Designer Jeannette Christensen dresses Rodriguez in flared jeans, sensible, sturdy boots, a cardigan and a scarf, the costume of middle-aged moms from Massachusetts to Madison. She’s “trying to be ordinary,” but as her confused, furious mother screams at aides and refuses to go with EMTs after a fall, the narrator’s life has tilted. We get the sense that she is documenting this experience to explain it not only to us, but to herself.

Read the full review here.