August 28, 2010

The Play You Requested (An Open Letter/Review)

Ruhl.pngI forgot to think up a review on my way home last night. I was too busy thinking up the letter I was going to send to certain friends--scholar friends who've asked me to keep an eye out for that "special" show that would merit the depletion of rare babysitting and tuition resources, and non-scholar friends who don't "do" theatre and would like to know if I ever come across a "good" show.

Aside from these regular reviews, I've yet to actually suggest anything for them--so much pressure! If someone's going to see one play in a year--in a decade maybe--it's gonna have to be good. I don't want to get that wrong. And this time, I'm confident I won't. So here is the letter I'm sending to all of my friends. (No joke.)

Dear ______,

You wanted to know if I ever found "the" play in town, and I'm pleased to report that I did. "The Clean House" by Sarah Ruhl. It's at the Warehouse, and I think you need to see it. I promise you will be very sad if you don't. And I also promise you will be (forgive the cliche) moved if you do. Moved to laughter and tears.

It's about jokes--the search for the perfect joke in the world (in Portuguese). So it's wickedly funny.
It's about the finding of Besherets (Jewish soul mates). So it's deep and meaningful.
It's about cleaning (or not cleaning) your house. So it's terribly relevant.
It's also about ice cream, compassion, dirty socks, depression, glowworms and death.

In short, it's about our mixed up lives and the decisions we make every day to clean or not to clean, to love or not to love, and whether or not to LAUGH at all of it.

I have never cried so much at something so hilarious.

As Matilde (the Brazilian cleaning lady) says, "In order to tell a good joke, you have to believe that your problems are very small, and that the world is very big...If more women knew more jokes, there would be more justice in this world."

Such sentiments may feel like salt in the proverbial wound, since Lane's life (and house) are literally falling apart. And Virginia's never had a life to speak of. And Ana is staring at cancer. But Lynne Junker's Matilde is so comforting and refreshing that I wouldn't mind her cleaning up my falling-apart life either. In fact, I wouldn't mind having any of these characters over for a while--the acting is incredible!

Debra Capps and Elizabeth Finley are astonishingly perfect as the sisters Lane and Virginia. They both capture an ineffable air of superficiality, the Sarah Ruhl whimsy, and the surprising depth underneath the clean exteriors.

Anne Tromsness and Paul Savas are delicate and delicious as all manner of couples in love.

The sound design (for all you music heads out there) is the most exquisite I've heard in Greenville (kudos to Paul Savas and Justin Ames), the set (Shannon Roberts) both minimal and mod, and the directing (also, ahem, Shannon Roberts) insightful--just the right strain of humor and pathos for Ms. Ruhl.

And this Ms. Ruhl, playwright? She is the only playwright, living or dead, that has ever induced me to say, "Why do I bother writing plays? The woman's already done it!" And I can say it without bitterness or despair, because she does it so beautifully. The experience is slightly disorienting, dream-like, thoroughly modern (or rather "contemporary," as my scholar friends would be quick to point out) and unlike anything you've seen in theatre before.

Whether you're artsy or no, studying for your PhD in obscure poetry or stocking the shelves of our local drug store--if you've been waiting to see something spectacular, something unusual and beautiful and funny funny funny. Something important. If you've been holding out for the perfect show you won't regret, Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House" at Warehouse Theatre is the one for you. Please don't miss it--or the best joke in the whole world.

Stephanie Young

PS--and if you're short on funds (many of you are) and you happen to be young (21-39), snag some tickets on Young Professionals Night, September 2. They're only $15 and include a free tasty beverage!

Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House," Directed by Shannon Roberts
Presented by The Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St., Greenville (864) 235-6948. Through September 11. Tickets $25. Students $15.

Posted by stephanie at August 28, 2010 07:52 AM | TrackBack