The Clean House is a funny, moving, beautiful exploration of the messiness of love.
Tonight we open our the last play of our 21st season at Boise Contemporary Theater with a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl.
This beautifully imaginative play tells the story of Lane and Charles, married doctors who have messy lives but insist on a tidy house. After hiring Matilde, a Brazilian comedian, as their housekeeper, Lane discovers that the tidiness she seeks may not be attainable.
To direct the play, we are very fortunate to have Drew Barr return to BCT. Drew has directed six productions here, including Edward Albee’s At Home At The Zoo, Souvenir, and what we refer to at BCT as “the unlikely trilogy”: I Am My Own Wife, Tru, and This Wonderful Life, all one-man shows, starring Tom Ford.
Watching Drew work in stocking feet, it struck me that good things happen when he sheds his shoes. Drew’s style in working with actors and crew is intimate, quiet, catlike. He moves fluidly around the set, whispering, thinking, inventing.
In the final week of rehearsal, Drew spoke to actress Paula Rebelo as if they were alone in the theater. For one scene, when Paula is left alone, Drew suggested she reflect on finally being given space to create. Paula responded with thoughtful toe tapping and the pose of Rodin’s “Thinker,” among other gestures.
Drew and Paula inventing in the shadows of a beautiful set designed by Rick Martin.
On our stage, nothing is haphazard. The elegant entrances, the colorful lights, the pitch perfect sounds are the product of painstaking collaboration by our amazing artists and technicians. We spend a good deal of time on what might seem like small details because they are vital to telling the story.
Paula crossing the stage as Matilde, for example, requires the precise coordination of lights numbered 32, 33, 34 and 35. When Olivia Negrón and Arthur Glen Hughes dramatically enter with large umbrellas, there is great care taken with just where to put these grand props. Shall they be laid down casually? Stowed in tubes? Cinched or left loose?
Drew sweats the details, though he’s no pedant. His reach for inspiration is inspiringly varied. In a span of 60 minutes he draws inspiration from Charlie Brown’s raincloud, Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades and Broadway hits from then and now, Oliver, and Sunday in the Park with George.
Bumbershoots in the memory/imagination of Matilde. Arthur Glen Hughes, Olivia Negrón, and Paula Rebelo.
Denise Simone, one of the founders of Company of Fools in Hailey, makes her BCT debut in The Clean House as Lane’s sister, Virginia. Her performance is simultaneously precise and unpredictable, while being so very funny. It’s a thrill to have her here. Under all the immaculate details of this beautifully rendered production beats a gigantic, passionate heart. There is a scene in the play that includes overlapping laughter and tears that I honestly can’t imagine anyone performing more compellingly than our own Tracy Sunderland. She is undeniably brilliant as Lane.
We’re sold out tonight, continuing this year’s run of great support from our Idaho audience. Please think about getting tickets soon for a run that ends May 6. I hope to see you at the show.
Matthew Cameron Clark
Founding Artistic Director
Boise Contemporary Theater
“We tell stories here.”