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The Clean House

a Comedy
by Sarah Ruhl

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 2829

SHOWING : May 30, 2008 - June 29, 2008



No matter how hard you try, love can make a mess of a spotless house. Sarah Ruhl's comedy about cleanliness, fidelity, true love, and the perfect joke comes to the Horizon like a breath of fresh Lysol.

Director Lisa Adler
Virginia Jill Jane Clements
Lane Carolyn Cook
A Man, Charles James Donadio
Cast Suehyla El-Attar
Matilde Suehyla El-Attar
A Woman, Ana Mary Lynn Owen
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


by TheatreMeter2000
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Short and sweet:

This show is astounding. Absolutely the best show I've seen in the area in quite some time. A perfect script. Perfect casting. Perfect direction.

Making a Mess of It
by Dedalus
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Sometimes, a strange alchemy occurs when a play makes the jump from page to stage. Sarah Ruhl’s “The Clean House” was published in “American Theatre” magazine in 2004, and, at the time, I found it an amusing, clever, but not entirely winning meditation on the messiness love can bring into our lives. Still, I liked it enough (and was totally wowed by Ms. Ruhl’s “Eurydice” recently mounted at the Alliance) that I was looking forward to this production.

The result is one of the best plays of the year so far. A crackerjack cast brings to life these poetic and eccentric characters, and play on the emotions with such a range of colors, that I found myself compelled to reread the script, wondering why I didn’t see its obvious virtues when I first read it.

Lane (the always memorable Carolyn Cook) is a successful doctor who lives in a world of white. She dresses in white, her home is white, and she probably dreams in white. She has hired a Brazilian immigrant, sometimes Matilde-American-Pronunciation, other times Matilde-Brazilian-Pronunciation, to keep her home clean. But Matilde (the always funny Suehyla El-Attar) would rather create “the perfect joke” and doesn’t especially like to clean. Fortunately, Lane’s sister, Virginia (the always reliable Jill Jane Clements) loves to clean, and Virginia and Matilde conspire to keep Lane’s home white and spotless. Unfortunately, Lane’s husband, Charles (the always dashing James Donadio), also a doctor, falls in love with one of his elderly patients, Ada (the always delectable and MILF-esque Mary Lynn Owen), and decides to run off with her. Lane’s life and home descend into chaos and mess, with emotional highs and lows, laughs and tears, trees and snow, apples and jokes, dust and clutter. One of the joys of this production is watching the pristine (and sterile) white set at the start slowly descend into the cluttered (and fully alive) mess at the end. The lighting even begins to make the white walls look yellow and dinghy.

There were moments in this show of breath-taking emotional clarity. One of the scripted moments I found “precious” and unworkable was Ada and Matilde tossing apples into the sea, the “sea” really being Lane’s living room. But, seeing it live on stage, it was a moment of broad humor harmonized by the sight of Lane lying on her couch, clutching a hot water bottle to her misery. It was an emotionally complex note that sang right to my heart. Talk about alchemy!

Another moment – and I won’t spoil a nice plot surprise by setting it up – has Lane struck by the fact that during their long marriage, she has no memory of Charles looking at her with that “glow” he shares with Ana – all their wedding pictures have him looking at her with “admiration.” And, of course, in her usual fashion, Ms. Cook delivers the speech with such honesty and helplessness that I couldn’t help but cry for her.

In another moment – and again, I won’t spoil it with a set-up – an unheard joke engenders the total laughter of true abandon, which quickly (and convincingly) becomes the abandoned wail of loss and grief.

This production is a true emotional roller-coaster ride, and, moments which seemed contrived and pretentious on the page become vivid and true when given life by actors at their sublime best. Director Lisa Adler has orchestrated a near-perfect and imaginative production, with set, design, and performance creating an alchemy (there’s that word again) that is (or should be) the goal of any production.

This is a play about characters of my generation, and even of my temperament (to a degree). It balances and juxtaposes motifs of chaos/mess, of class/gender, of laughter/grief, of language/meaning in ways that are totally original, totally poetic, and totally realistic.

This is a play to treasure, mess and all!

-- Brad Rudy (

Postscript: The published script has a number of jokes that the actress playing Matilde can choose from for the opening. I’d like to share one with you that wasn’t used in this production (I think):

Por que os homens na cama săo como comida de microondas? Estăo prontos em trinta segundos.

Funny stuff!



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