Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Company, As If Theatre, Presents Lovely "The Clean House"

The cast of The Clean House (Rosemary Dai Ross)
The Clean House
As If Theatre Company
Extended through March 3, 2019

As often happens in the Seattle area, a group of like-minded folks get together and decide to create a new company. Sometimes it's to produce one particular script and sometimes the goal is a bit larger. Out in Kenmore, a group of mature women (as in "not eager 20-somethings") have created As If Theatre Company, in an area that doesn't have a lot of theater going on there. 

Since I live nearby and like the idea of theater in Kenmore, I was pleased, as well, that they chose to produce Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House. I'd seen the production at ACT Theatre a decade ago and I remembered that I really loved the play but didn't remember enough about it and wanted to revisit it.

Carissa Meisner Smit, a capable director, helmed a stripped down, but completely charming production with five capable actors: Devika Bhagwat, Terry Boyd, Cindy Giese French, Amy Gentry, and Carolynne Wilcox. 

French and Gentry play sisters who are very different one from another. Lane (French) is a doctor who is so busy and hates to clean so she hires a live-in house cleaner Matilda (Bhagwat). The other sister, Virginia (Gentry) has a secret compulsion to clean and little else to do, so when she finds out that the Matilda gets sad cleaning, she offers to do the actual cleaning. 

Matilda spends a lot of her time trying to create the funniest joke in the world to honor her parents' love - and claims her mother died after her father told the funniest joke in the world to her. But she's sad that she doesn't know what it is because her father shot himself directly afterward. She tells a number of jokes but most of us don't speak Portuguese (she's Brazilian), so we probably don't understand them.

And then there's Lane's doctor husband (Boyd) who suddenly announces he's fallen in love with Ana (Wilcox) and therefore, must leave Lane. This upsets Lane's careful life, of course, and the rest of the play deals with that fall-out.

It's an adorable and very different style of play. The script has characters that talk directly to the audience and some absurd events that are clearly not "realistic" yet the sum of the whole might easily reach an audience member's heart. It's also frequently very funny.

This cast is adept at managing both the character development and the style and silliness. Bhagwat is quite delightful as the maid who doesn't want to do the work. Her Indian-accented English is clearly not Brazilian, but the accent lends itself to the sense of "foreignness" called for, so it doesn't detract from the character. 

This is a successful debut for this company and you're encouraged to run out to Kenmore Community Club on Bothell Way and see for yourself. For more information, go to www.asiftheatre.com.

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