Matilda (Emily Condon) bounces about Lane’s house taking life in stride while she battles an extended case of the mopes. She recently lost both her parents and has found herself a Brazilian transplant in America doing the thing she hates worst for a day job, cleaning.
“Laughter cleans the insides,” Matilda announces halfway through our encounter enmeshed in the fateful intersections of human paths that The Clean House dramatizes.
A Life Deferred
Matilda inherited comedy from her mother and father, who shared the wonder of laughter with her from the day she was born, but left her wanting on the day they died. Matilda carries this void along when she enters Lane’s crumbling personal life as her live-in maid.
Lane (Jackie Benka), once a charmed doctor who hitched up with a surgeon, now grasps desperately to hold her strained marriage. The controlled demolition of Lane’s personal life gives this story a hub of morbid ironies to find humor and wisdom in.
Lane’s bored and nosey sister Virginia (Kathy Landry) regularly comes poking around and stirring the cauldron brewing in Lane’s house that Matilda already has swirling with her mercurial ways. Matilda and Virginia make a odd match of confidants as Virginia’s love for cleaning and small talk meets Matilda’s need for an ear and a pair of industrious hands to save her from Lane’s chores.
Virginia prophetically proclaims the reason behind her devotion for cleaning, “How else are you going to catch your husband cheating.” Commiserating over a basket of Lane’s freshly laundered undergarments, Matilda and Virginia’s symbiosis naturally discovers evidence of Charles’s (Joseph Ellman) infidelity.
Without her cleaning crew’s help, Lane’s rigid intelligence allows her to deduce the symptoms of her failing marriage. When her husband finally comes clean, his stilted and clinical rationalism allows his mouth to supply her a defensible alibi – er, explanation.
He gathered his conscious clearing pass from the cultural repository of public radio no less. Tuning in there, he learned that finding his soulmate Ana (Sam Billek) while removing her cancerous breasts obligated him to be with her. Charles obliviously attempts to share his joy with Lane, with Virginia and Matilda gazing in awe, arriving at her house accompanied by Ana.
As these five lives entangle further, the audience explores several aspects of love’s elusive, unquantifiable presence in our drive to exult in our lovers with our talents, bitterly let them go forever, transact with them steadfastly in daily exchanges of love languages, or unselfishly tend to their last wishes.
A Village Playhouse production, Scott Sorenson’s take on Sarah Ruhl’s story succeeds in creating a well-set, snicker inducing mellow drama. Type-blind casting works here as the players come as they are, betraying and remolding stereotypical imagery this play runs the danger of eliciting, giving the characters a new lease on life.
Credits go to The Clean House’s producer Erico Ortiz and creative team Jennifer Lautz (Lighting and Sound Designer), Nikki Maritch (Costume Designer), and Sorenson (Set Design).
The Clean House runs at Inspiration Studios in West Allis through October 13 with evening shows Friday and Saturday October 4, 5, 11, and 12th at 7:30pm and Monday matinees October 6, and 13th.
Inspiration Studios’s quaint confines sit on a corner just South of 73rd and Greenfield, 1500 S. 73rd Street, West Allis, WI 53204.