Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 19, 2009

The Clean House

New Century Theatre, Northampton, MA
through July 25, 2009
by Donna Bailey-Thompson

Five years and 60 miles away, "The Clean House" was premiered at Yale Repertory Theatre. As staged by New Century Theatre and directed by Ed Golden, this Pulitzer Prize finalist has been worth the wait.

Between the beginning monologue (an obviously sexy joke told in Portuguese augmented with gyrating pelvic body language) and the ending which is another beginning (the circle of life being what it is), a polished cast grabbed Friday night's audience's attention and took its funny bones on a ride studded with sensitive surprises.

Matilde (played con mucho gusto by Alyssa Polascek) is an updated Carmen Miranda whose wiggles, smiles, and transparent honesty sustains the quest for the perfect joke. She is hired as a live-in housekeeper for Lane, a medical doctor, whose exterior self-assurance masks her interior self-doubts. As the regal Lane, Lisa Abend gets it. By Lane's standard, her younger sister, Virginia (the incomparable Cate Damon) is an underachiever: Virginia is a clean freak who measures her worth by how efficiently she misplaces dust and brings order out of household clutter. As Virginia, Damon's Pollyanna reveries that slide into violent musings, her mincing, subservient little girl steps, her explosive release, all contribute to fleshing out a multi-dimensional character. And, her deadpans are side-splitting.

The heart of Lane's surgeon husband, Charles (Sam Rush) is pierced by Cupid's bashert-dipped arrow when meeting the exotic Ana (Donna Sorbello whose cancer patient portrayal is to die for). Rush's Charles pantomimes with pitch-perfect sang-froid - when slogging through deep snow; and when operating to save his beloved Ana, his hands with scalpel, needle and thread, perform an aerial ballet.

Jacquelyn Marolt's all white set design reflects the play's hospital connection. Similarly, Emily Justice Dunn's costume design mirrors the actors' characters. Daniel D. Rist's lighting design literally heightens the action.

According to the playwright, the play takes place in "A metaphysical Connecticut. Or, a house that is not far from the city and not far from the sea." This endearing contemporary play also takes place within the heart.