FringeTastic: Linda Means to Wait

By Emily Baldwin
Freshman, Northwestern University

As a theater enthusiast, I am constantly questioning why this particular art form is so influential. In ninety engrossing minutes, Linda Means to Wait — Linda Kuriloff’s autobiographical one-woman show — answers just that. When Linda challenges her Bronx students to question whether the metal detectors in their school are necessary, and discovers how mistrustful they are of their neighbors, she decides to teach them about customs and community by telling them her life story. As she talks about growing up with her South African family in the south side of Chicago, Linda questions: What does it take to make a country your home? How much do you have to sever ties with one world to become part of another? And how can you consider your neighbors your friends? Ms. Kuriloff artfully takes us on a journey through the deeply sorrowful and the downright hilarious. She relates how she experiences the differences between African and American cultures, ranging from styles of music to how to value a human life. We see someone who wants her family to act more like the Brady Bunch while her dad wears straw hats to mow the lawn and her uncle feasts on goat eyeballs. With distinct voices and mannerisms, Ms. Kuriloff embodies her South African relatives, her individual students, and even the different ages of Linda. By portraying these characters, she illustrates how values both are transferred and transformed among the generations. And as we see the Bronx students — who pop in and out of the narrative — connecting to her story, we learn how she grows to cherish her family traditions. The ultimate triumph of Linda Means to Wait is its subtlety. Ms. Kuriloff’s messages are woven organically into her performance, without whacking us over the heads with their significance. Combining the best elements of intimate conversation and dramatized storytelling, Ms. Kuriloff reveals the power of the theater as a way to pass along history. By examining one person exploring the people in her life, we see what she has learned from each of them and how others learn from her. Only through such masterful retelling can one illustrate how such specific experiences — with losing loved ones, and learning to live in between two worlds — are universal. website