The Clean House
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Jeff Thomas

Laura Jorgensen is hilarious as Virginia, an obsessive-compulsive house cleaner in Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House now playing at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater. She is so obsessive about cleaning that after finishing the cleaning of her house early in the afternoon, she feels lost, empty, suicidal! But then she hears that her sister’s Brazilian housekeeper hates cleaning so she makes Matilde (Juliet Tanner) a proposition. She’ll do all of Matilda’s work if she promises not to tell Virginia’s sister Lane (Danielle Thys).

This is fine with Matilde who has aspirations of becoming a comedian. So while Virginia cleans, Matilde works on writing the perfect joke, which she describes as being, “somewhere between an angel and a fart.”

But there is a lot more to this fine comedy than many good laughs. It explores the coming together of different cultures and two very different sisters. But it doesn’t stop there. It even delves into love and death, and it does it all with a wonderful sense of humor and humanity.

Ruhl also employs magical realism to great comic effect. When Lane’s doctor husband falls in love with one of his patients, his new love life often overlaps with Lane’s, and Matilde’s thoughts of her parents, who “died laughing,” move in and out of the play’s present day action.

But what makes this drama great is that it’s bubbling over with the action and vitality of bringing opposites together. “To me, the true essence of this play is similar to the search for the perfect apple in the second act,” says director Tara Blau. “When we find it we must take a bite, a large bite, savor it, let the juice run down our chins and embrace the mess, with love, laughter and forgiveness.”

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