The Clean House

“Karin de la Penha’s performance as Ana, the husband’s lover who befriends Matilde, cast a magical spell that is rarely found on stage; she was captivating and mesmerizing, and her final scene was so brave, tender, and real that it took a moment to get back your breath.”

12 Miles West Presents Polished “Clean House”

May 9, 2012 – Lloyd Pace

12 Miles West, the professional theater company in Rutherford, N.J., has polished up a gem of a production of a jewel of a play, The Clean House, by Sarah Ruhl.  This imaginative staging ofThe Clean House, directed by Robert Cox, captures the whimsy, humor, pathos, and absurdity of a plot that captures the magical style of Latin American literature.  In addition to staging, the play is beautifully flavored by classical guitar music, performed and composed by Adam Lomeo.

The story line involves two married doctors on the verge of a break up, and their recently hired Brazilian maid, who doesn’t like to clean.  Fortunately for the maid, the wife’s sister loves to.  The maid, who occasionally lapses into Portuguese, wants to be a comedian, and is in pursuit of the perfect joke, which her parents died laughing over in Brazil.  It is all neatly and poignantly tied together with the wife caring for her husband’s lover as she dies from breast cancer.  The husband, in keeping with spirit of the absurd, is in Alaska in pursuit of a type of tree that he hopes has the power to cure her.

The acting is first rate.  Chelsie Shipley brings spark, humor and magic to Matilde, the Brazilian maid.  Cynthia Granville as Lane, the cold, career oriented wife, lets you see the hurt underneath her cold exterior without ever hitting a false note; her final scenes as she cares for her husband’s dying lover were played so tenderly that your heart broke.  Carolyn Popp, the sister who loves to clean, is hysterical and a joy to watch; she beautifully brings out the humanity of people who have taken a wrong path, but manage to cope.  Karin de la Penha’s performance as Ana, the husband’s lover who befriends Matilde, cast a magical spell that is rarely found on stage; she was captivating and mesmerizing, and her final scene was so brave, tender, and real that it took a moment to get back your breath.  Bruce Barton, as Charles, who leaves Lane for Ana, hit all the right notes, having to make his fall for Ana believable and his very funny trek in Alaska comic but heart felt; he pulled off the tough job of making the absurd believable, especially the final scene in which he loses Ana.

Robert Cox’s sensitive direction captured the humanity of the play and his staging was smooth and lyrical.  He is certainly a director who can understand the essence of a piece and fully realize it on the stage.  Matt Vieira’s technical direction in terms of lighting, sound, and video added to the magic of the evening

This was one of the best productions that can be seen anywhere.

Original article