The Clean House
By Sarah Rule
Directed by David A. McElroy
A staged reading by Southern Winds Theatre
Stardust Video & Coffee, Winter Park, FL
Sarah Ruhl’s 2005 Pulitzer Nominee filled the small stage at Stardust in this intimate and exciting reading. Lane (Marylin McGinnis) wants a clean house and a happy marriage and a career in medicine at an Important Hospital. Her live-in housemaid Matilde (Nicole Avery) hates cleaning and longs to be a comedian. Her parents were considered the funniest people in Brazil, so except for the language issues she got her chops down. Fortunately for her, Lane’s sister Virginia (Robin Olson) has time on her hands and finds cleaning cathartic, declaring “I LOVE cleaning toilets!” This all feels very homey until husband Charles (Dennis Neal) arrives with his new soul mate, the 67 year old post-mastectomy Ana (Kathleen Lindsay). Rather than the bitter post-divorce relations you might expect, the players each find a resolution that brings them happiness.
The cast dances over these philosophical underpinnings with glee, Neal and Lindsay (as Matilde’s parents) maintaining a “laugh out loud” relation we occasionally see but may never have personally experienced. Olson’s cleansing mania borders on obsessive compulsive but she doesn’t have the hand washing fetish yet. Matilde shows the most promise: for her house cleaning isn’t more than a way station, and she’s young and portable enough to make it’s at the comedy club in the next town. It’s McGuiness’s Lane I feel sorry for, her world not only fell apart, but she saw the flimsy construction that held it up and had to find a destiny helping her husband’s new soul mate.
Ruhl’s slightly surreal comedy raises the question “why aren’t you doing what you really want to?” It’s not society or tradition that has forced these people into odd situations; it’s just that sort of life happenstance that the Talking Heads pointed out: “How did I get here?” On the surface the path is all clear, but underneath lies a more complex kernel – we head out in a direction that we think is what we want, but by the time we get there and realize our initial take was wrong, we have some much time and energy invested we can’t easily start over. Once you set off on a voyage, it’s ever so hard to turn the rudder, but turn it will.
More information on Southern Winds Theatre may be found at http://SouthernWindsTheatre.com