Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Clean House"

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note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey

Good Housekeeping

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

THE CLEAN HOUSE, Sarah Ruhlís adorably wacky play about love and the power of laughter, is getting a spiffy production at the New Repertory Theatre through March 23rd. THE CLEAN HOUSE reminded me of the old I LOVE LUCY shows. America fell in love with Lucy for her unabashed, unrepentant lunacy and her loopy innocence---and thatís what makes this HOUSE sparkle.

Ruhl makes us believe the improbable and trust the impossible in her madcap, little morality play. Several characters clean house, literally and figuratively in Ruhlís story about a Portuguese-speaking, love-bearing free spirit (the fabulous Cristi Miles) who hates to clean but loves to make people laugh. She works for two driven doctors who no longer have time to enjoy their lives, let alone each other---but the young womanís mere presence seems to infuse the house with life.

Lest you think this is a commedia dellíarte set-up where servants prove wiser than their masters, it isnít. THE CLEAN HOUSE transcends the comic to become a triumph of the spirit. Ruhl leads us gently, from the hilariously absurd to the genuinely touching, giggling all the way.

Director Rick Lombardo sets just the right tone for Ruhlís clever parable. Paula Plum gives a solid serio-comic performance as the doctor who canít connect with her husband and canít even get her maid to dust. Nancy Carroll is wildly funny as the depressed, uptight sister obsessed with folding laundry, who loses it to the strains of TURANDOT. Will Lyman is a hoot in a pair of roles: as the humorless husband who learns to love and as the maidís spontaneous, rollicking father. Bobbie Steinbach gets two sensational parts, as the maidís dearly departed mother and as the catalyst for both doctorsí transformation. (Steinbachís description of childbirth, alone, is worth the price of admission.)

Charles Schoonmakerís costumes, like Lombardoís inspired musical choices, reflect the heightened mood of the piece and Cristina Todescoís set magically reveals yet another locale in Act II, in the spirit of the play. Deb Sullivanís light glows when characters light up with laughter. Jamie Whooleryís shimmering projections of ethereal clouds and blue moons dovetail perfectly with Kaetlyn Wilcoxís gorgeous paintings in the lobby gallery. Donít miss either the play or the artwork!

"The Clean House" (27 February - 23 March)
283 Melrose Street, NEWTON MAlrose Street, Newton, MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide