This theatrical comedy of class and love takes delight in making a jumble, in the mess and joy that is people’s lives and loves.
A doctor needs her house cleaned – she likes a clean house – only she doesn’t like telling people to clean it. She hires a Brazilian girl, who frustratingly is depressed over the sudden and comic-tragic passing of her parents – the greatest joke tellers in the world – and so doesn’t want to clean. This girl – what does she do? She passes her days thinking up the perfect joke, whilst secretly, the doctor’s sister does the cleaning for her.
Matters get complicated. The husband (also a doctor) falls in love with another woman. A beautiful South American lady.
So, on the surface? The Clean House – Four women from diverse backgrounds, two from South American, and two sisters from North America, are thrown together by a philandering husband who perhaps should know better. That he doesn’t, is what kicks this play forward.
This decidedly American take on love and loss adds a new vigour to the aging drawing-room comedy genre. But more interestingly it politely presents difficult truths about the growing class divisions (often on race grounds) that have been developing within the North American social fabric.
The playwright Sarah Ruhl is taking swift and fast aim at both North and South American cultures and I can imagine that on Broadway a production similar to what I saw would sparkle as each of the playwrights arrows hit their intended target.
In Australia, it still works but instead of that beautiful uncomfortable feeling you get when a play challenges you, instead we get to laugh at the funny Americans (North and South). This is still pretty good.
The audience I watched it with was split, with some of the more hard nosed theatre types not feeling it went far enough. That said, there were many delicious and heart felt laughs coming from the older set. The Clean House then, is four great female roles with terrific performances, a touching and pleasing story, and fun to boot. Something quite rare on Australian stages.
Recommended for Baby Boomers and Up, Ladies Social Groups, and for those that like their theatre passionate and kind.
Show watched Preview, Mon 28th June 2010.
Playing at the Cremorne Theatre unitl July 31st.