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All in transition in The Clean House

"If it were not for dust, I think I would die."

The Clean House at New Village Arts
The Clean House at New Village Arts

The Clean House

Charles just performed a mastectomy on Ana and fell in love with her. When his wife Lane asks how it could happen, he says Ana is his “Beshert,” which is Hebrew for soul mate. But, Lane retorts, “you aren’t Jewish!”

Young Matilde’s parents were the funniest people in Brazil. Her mother, in fact, died of laughter when her father told the world’s greatest joke. Unable to live without her, he shot himself.

Mathilde also seeks perfection. She wants something, be it a joke or an apple, so extraordinary it’s unrepeatable. She also wants to be a comedian. She’s so engulfed in sorrow, laughter may be the only way out. And the last thing she wants to do is clean Lane’s sterile house beautiful.

Lane’s sister Virginia would love nothing more than to clean Lane’s abode, after, that is, Virginia’s given her own a thorough scouring. “If you don’t clean,” says the self-confessed dirt freak, “how do you know if you’ve made any progress in life. If it were not for dust, I think I would die.”

The Clean House at New Village Arts

“Quirky” doesn’t describe Sarah Ruhl’s characters in this 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Nor does “magic realism” quite cover the style, since the gruesome’s right alongside the fantastic. Put it this way: Matilde is young enough to have good skin, but old enough to worry if her skin’s still good. She’s in transition. So are Ana, Lane, Charles, and Virginia. And so, says the playwright, is life itself.

It’s like hearing a joke in Portuguese, if you don’t speak the language. You have a choice: feel left out, or enjoy the attempt to tickle your funny-bone. In fact, that’s Matilde’s idea of heaven: it’s “a sea of untranslatable jokes, except everyone is laughing.”

New Village Arts’ production starts with Claudio Raygoza’s excellent direction. He must have a sixth — or tenth — sense for the material since he honors the magical and the mad, the grief and the elation, and yokes them with humor and compassion.

The cast is tops. Young Nadia Guevara enchants as Mathilde, as wise as she is perplexed. Kristianne Kurner and Tom Deak, as Lane and Charles, arc nicely from stiff entitlement to open-eyed acceptance. Catalina Maynard gives Ana an elegant toughness; she will live her life, every step, on her own terms, and with grace. Hannah Logan, at first unrecognizable in thick glasses and black bangs, simply is Virginia: fastidious, mega-repressed, and hilarious throughout, but especially when folding Charles’, um, laundry.

Brian Redfern’s set has a tall white fireplace, white walls, and curtains. It’s so classy only someone with Virginia’s “dirt fetish” would want to keep it clean. And would react in horror when the fireplace becomes a balcony and half-eaten apples cascade down on the floor that becomes a “sea.”

And would also react with awe when stuffing for a pillow becomes Alaskan snow, where Charles has gone to find a mystical yew tree and — no. No more. Go find out for yourself.

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Symphony silent on reasons for renovation

The Clean House at New Village Arts
The Clean House at New Village Arts

The Clean House

Charles just performed a mastectomy on Ana and fell in love with her. When his wife Lane asks how it could happen, he says Ana is his “Beshert,” which is Hebrew for soul mate. But, Lane retorts, “you aren’t Jewish!”

Young Matilde’s parents were the funniest people in Brazil. Her mother, in fact, died of laughter when her father told the world’s greatest joke. Unable to live without her, he shot himself.

Mathilde also seeks perfection. She wants something, be it a joke or an apple, so extraordinary it’s unrepeatable. She also wants to be a comedian. She’s so engulfed in sorrow, laughter may be the only way out. And the last thing she wants to do is clean Lane’s sterile house beautiful.

Lane’s sister Virginia would love nothing more than to clean Lane’s abode, after, that is, Virginia’s given her own a thorough scouring. “If you don’t clean,” says the self-confessed dirt freak, “how do you know if you’ve made any progress in life. If it were not for dust, I think I would die.”

The Clean House at New Village Arts

“Quirky” doesn’t describe Sarah Ruhl’s characters in this 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Nor does “magic realism” quite cover the style, since the gruesome’s right alongside the fantastic. Put it this way: Matilde is young enough to have good skin, but old enough to worry if her skin’s still good. She’s in transition. So are Ana, Lane, Charles, and Virginia. And so, says the playwright, is life itself.

It’s like hearing a joke in Portuguese, if you don’t speak the language. You have a choice: feel left out, or enjoy the attempt to tickle your funny-bone. In fact, that’s Matilde’s idea of heaven: it’s “a sea of untranslatable jokes, except everyone is laughing.”

New Village Arts’ production starts with Claudio Raygoza’s excellent direction. He must have a sixth — or tenth — sense for the material since he honors the magical and the mad, the grief and the elation, and yokes them with humor and compassion.

The cast is tops. Young Nadia Guevara enchants as Mathilde, as wise as she is perplexed. Kristianne Kurner and Tom Deak, as Lane and Charles, arc nicely from stiff entitlement to open-eyed acceptance. Catalina Maynard gives Ana an elegant toughness; she will live her life, every step, on her own terms, and with grace. Hannah Logan, at first unrecognizable in thick glasses and black bangs, simply is Virginia: fastidious, mega-repressed, and hilarious throughout, but especially when folding Charles’, um, laundry.

Brian Redfern’s set has a tall white fireplace, white walls, and curtains. It’s so classy only someone with Virginia’s “dirt fetish” would want to keep it clean. And would react in horror when the fireplace becomes a balcony and half-eaten apples cascade down on the floor that becomes a “sea.”

And would also react with awe when stuffing for a pillow becomes Alaskan snow, where Charles has gone to find a mystical yew tree and — no. No more. Go find out for yourself.

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you're one of the few critics who actually 'get' this play -- bravo!

Oct. 18, 2014

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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