Tag Archives: Lilia Leon

Crazy LOL love & the power of the perfect joke in the quirky, poignant, hilarious The Clean House

Review of The Clean House, running to Sat April 22.
Tickets are 2-for-1 on Wed April 19; $20 Thu – Sat.
http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/ticket-info.html

life with more cowbell

Annemieke Wade, Neil Silcox, Andrea Irwin, Lilia Leon & Marina Moreira in The Clean House—photo by Bruce Peters

 

Love isn’t clean… It’s dirty. Like a good joke.

Alumnae Theatre Company closes its 2016-17 season with Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, directed by Ali Joy Richardson, assisted by Nevada Banks; currently running on the Mainstage.

Still in mourning over her parents’ unusual and unexpected death, Matilde (Marina Moreira) moves from Brazil to Connecticut, where she becomes a live-in maid to doctors Lane (Andrea Irwin) and Charles (Neil Silcox). Thing is, she hates cleaning; it makes her sad. An aspiring comedian, and the child of two very funny people, she’s striving for the perfect joke. Things lighten up for Matilde when Lane’s older sister Virginia (Annemieke Wade) makes an odd request: she wants to clean her sister’s house. Virginia loves to clean and needs something to do, and Matilde…

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Report on “The Clean House” Talkback, April 9

Virginia (to Charles): “Oh, you found your bashert!” Lane: “How do you know about bashert?’ Virginia: “I heard it on public radio.” (Annemieke Wade as Virginia; Neil Silcox as Charles; Andrea Irwin as Lane; Lilia Leon as Ana [the bashert]; Marina Moreira as Matilde). Photo: Bruce Peters

Usually the Talkbacks for Alumnae Theatre Company productions are held on the second Sunday of the run, but because next week is Easter, the Talkback for The Clean House was on the first Sunday – April 9.  Director Ali Joy Richardson and producer Laura Jabalee Johnston could not be there, but the lively discussion was ably steered by assistant director Nevada Banks.  About half of the matinee audience (on a gorgeous spring afternoon) stuck around to ask the cast some questions.

 

Q:           Has this play been staged in Toronto before?         

A (Annemieke Wade, who plays Virginia):   Yes, CanStage did it about 8 years ago.  [bloggergal’s note:  It was February 2008 – see https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2008/02/10/inside_the_clean_house.html and https://nowtoronto.com/stage/theatre/house-lets-us-off-easy/]   Fiona Reid played my role, and Seana McKenna played Lane.

 

Q:           Could you please translate the first joke – the rather lengthy one – that Matilde tells in Portuguese?

A (Marina Moreira, who plays Matilde):  A man who’s never had sex is about to get married.  He goes to his doctor for advice…

[bloggergal’s note: Marina did translate the entire joke, but I’m not going to attempt to reproduce it in print!]

 

Q:           Is there a difference between the Portuguese that’s spoken in Brazil, and the Portuguese spoken in Portugal?

A (Marina):   Yes, just like there’s a difference between the Spanish spoken in Mexico and Argentina and Spain.  It’s a different dialect and vocabulary.

 

Question from Nevada to the cast:  What were the challenges or benefits of working with [playwright] Sarah Ruhl’s strangely specific stage directions?

A (Neil Silcox, who plays Charles):  They were specific as to the “feel”, but left room for interpretation by the director and the actors. For example, one of my stage directions is “Charles makes a noise like a wounded animal.”

A (Marina):  My favourite is “Lane and Virginia have a primal moment.”!

A (Annemieke):   In the script, Ruhl gives the option of using surtitles to translate the Portuguese and Spanish dialogue that Matilde and Ana speak, but we decided that the actors’ performances were so good, we didn’t need projections – their intentions could speak for themselves.

A (Lilia Leon, who plays Ana):  Ali [director Ali Joy Richardson] worked a lot with us on the rhythm and music of the language.

 

Q:           Loved the set design!

A (Neil):  The set design is by Orly Zebak.  She used many, many coats of white paint on the floor – it used to be black!

 

Q (to Nevada):    How did you feel about the stage directions?

A (Nevada):  Sarah Ruhl uses exciting language both in the dialogue and in the stage directions.  It was a gift, not a hindrance.  And the cast picked it up so well.

A (Andrea Irwin, who plays Lane):  For anyone who likes to read plays, and even if you don’t usually, I highly recommend reading this one!

A (Marina):  You can really see Ruhl’s background as a poet in the language.

A (Neil):  There are worlds of possibility in the stage directions, which Ali and Nevada helped us to hone and become more specific.  Specificity is everything in acting!

 

Q:           Is the playwright bilingual?

A (Marina):  No, she’s not.  I think she worked with a translator, or maybe a bilingual actor on the first production.

 

Q (to Neil):          What was it like being the only male in the cast?

A (Neil): It was grrreat!  Actually, the whole production team is women.  The sound designer [Nicholas Potter] and I are the only men.

 

Q:           How did this play come about?

A (Annemieke):   Sarah Ruhl was at a party, and overheard someone talking about her husband having an affair.  And she was at another party, and overheard someone mention that her cleaning lady was depressed and wouldn’t clean, so she was medicating her!

A (Nevada):  Sarah Ruhl’s father died of cancer, but he used the healing power of laughter to help with the pain.

 

Q:           It was a privilege watching your work today.  Are you similar to your characters?

A (Lilia):   A close friend said he saw a lot of me in Ana, but I think she is braver than I am.  I tried to bring boldness into the character.

 

Lane (Andrea Irwin) and her sister Virginia (Annemieke Wade) argue in The Clean House.  Photo:  Bruce Peters

Q:           What’s it like playing sisters?

A (Andrea):  I don’t have a sister, only two brothers.  But Mieke and I are two years apart, just like Lane and Virginia, and our birthdays are within a week of each other.

A (Annemieke):  I can relate to Virginia’s wanting to do something with her life, because I have a sister who might have been a philosopher, if depression had not had its way with her.

 

Q:           Marina, your character is very subtle, but you seem to be quite commanding!

A (Marina):  Thank you!

 

Q:           Whose story is this? 

A (Marina):   It’s everyone’s story – it’s an ensemble.

The cast of The Clean House: Marina Moreira (Matilde), Lilia Leon (Ana), Neil Silcox (Charles), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Annemieke Wade (Virginia). Photo: Bruce Peters

 

Q:           Yes, but who takes the greatest journey?   *** SPOILER ALERT!  STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW! ***

A (Marina, pointing to Lilia):  Well, she dies!

A (Neil):  I go to Alaska!

A (Andrea):  Charles and Lane?

 

Q:           The characters all had funny moments, but you could see the poignancy and intimacy underneath.

A (Nevada):  Thank you.

 

Q:           What was the last line of the play?  I didn’t quite hear it.
A (Marina):  “I think maybe heaven is a sea of untranslatable jokes.  Only everyone is laughing.”

*****************************

The Clean House runs to April 22, with performances Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sun matinee (April 16) at 2pm.  2-for-1 Wed; $20 Thu/Fri/Sat; PWYC Sun.  Purchase tickets online at http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html, OR make a reservation (416-364-4170, Box 1  / reservations@alumnaetheatre.com) and pay cash at the door.  PWYC matinee tickets not sold online; no reservations taken for Sundays

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First stumble-through for “The Clean House”, March 21

Bloggergal was a little late arriving, and missed the first few minutes of the stumble-through for The Clean House.  ‘Stumble-through’ is theatre parlance for an early run of the play that is expected to be rough.  In many cases, as with this one, the set is not finished; there is minimal tech (essential music cues were provided courtesy of director Ali Joy Richardson’s laptop; and she read out the content of lines that will be projected on the backdrop) or props; and actors are not completely off-book (there were a few calls for “Line!”, which stage manager Lizz Armstrong provided).

Virginia (Annemieke Wade – standing) tries to comfort her sister Lane (Andrea Irwin) in rehearsal shot from “The Clean House”.
Photo: Laura Jabalee Johnston

The other team members in the audience were Assistant Director Nevada Banks, props designer Helen Monroe, set designer Orly Zebak, lighting designer Steph Raposo, set construction assistant Lucy McPhee, sound designer Nick Potter, and producer Laura Jabalee Johnston.

Bloggergal spent much of Act I (which Lizz estimates will run about 50 minutes) noting funny dialogue exchanges – like these, between Matilde (Marina Moreira), an aspiring comedian from Brazil, currently working as a housekeeper in Connecticut.  She is speaking with her employer’s sister, Virginia (Annemieke Wade):

MATILDE (confessing):    I don’t like to clean so much.

VIRGINIA:            I like cleaning.

MATILDE:            Why?

……..

MATILDE:            Do you want to hear a joke?

VIRGINIA:            Not really.

MATILDE:            Why not?

VIRGINIA:            I don’t like to laugh out loud.

Then there was the heartbreaking monologue delivered by Virginia’s sister/Matilde’s employer, Lane (Andrea Irwin), when she learns that her husband is having an affair.  “This is how I imagine my husband and his new wife,” she tells us, as Charles (Neil Silcox) and Ana (Lilia Leon) twine lovingly on a riser* at stage left.      Matilde can see this vision.  “Who are they?” she asks Lane.  “Just my husband and the woman he loves,” Lane replies.  “Don’t worry, they’re only in my imagination.”

In Act II, Neil as the cheating hubby did a very funny striptease as he attempted to join ladylove Ana for a swim – he had not practiced removing all the necessary parts of his costume!  “Just take off the belt,” recommended director Ali.  So Neil whipped off his belt and flourished it dramatically, causing bloggergal and AD Nevada to dissolve into giggles.

Annemieke personified gleeful joy as she… – well, let’s just say she lets loose and does something quite out of character (but scripted) for clean-freak Virginia!

At one point, Lane and Ana were on the balcony, but missing a crucial prop.  Ali called backstage: “Neil, could you just run the fishbowl out?”  But he didn’t just bring the thing out and plunk it down, oh no.  He entered all bundled up in his costume for a later scene, making wind-whooshing noises, and delivered the bowl with another dramatic flourish.  More cracking up ensued in the audience; the actors displayed impressive focus and kept straight faces.

Director Ali Joy Richardson (centre – in dark sweater, back to camera) and assistant director Nevada Banks (left – in horse sweater) give notes to cast of “The Clean House” following March 21 stumble-through. L-R: Lilia Leon, Neil Silcox, Andrea Irwin, Marina Moreira, Annemieke Wade. Photo: Laura Jabalee Johnston.

A delightful taste of what’s to come – in 2-1/2 weeks!

In this script, playwright Sarah Ruhl is a master at making the audience snort with laughter one moment, and be on the verge of tears the next.

The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl runs April 7-22 at Alumnae Theatre.

See http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-clean-house.html for team bios and photos, and to purchase tickets.  Also visit the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1301005259957126/

 

       *the riser is standing in tonight for what will become a balcony!

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Sitting in on rehearsal for “The Clean House” (Feb 26)

Last Sunday (Feb 26), bloggergal sat in for part of a rehearsal for Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of  The Clean House.   Director Ali Joy Richardson had actors Neil Silcox (married surgeon Charles) and Lilia Leon (his patient, Ana) work some of their scenes together.  I saw them meet in Charles’ office for [what Ali decided was] the first time and be struck simultaneously by Cupid’s arrow.  So sweet and joyous!  I saw them find nuances a scene that occurs later in the play, when Charles’ frantic neediness begins to tire and annoy Ana.

Lovely work from the actors, who took Ali’s insightful and often humorous direction on board, and made beautiful incremental adjustments to their performances.  Stage manager Lizz Armstrong kept everything on schedule, and made blocking and production notes – like necessary props, or the placement of a staircase on the set.

I was not able to stay for the actors’ work with music coach Sam Gaetz (yes, Charles and Ana sing a duet!), but apparently it went very well.

Looking forward to seeing the characters develop.  Will be sitting in on a full-cast rehearsal next Sunday.  clean-house-image

 

The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl runs April 7-22 at Alumnae Theatre.  The basic info at http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-clean-house.html will be updated shortly with team bios and  photos, etc.  Also check out the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1301005259957126/

 

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First read-through of “The Clean House”, Feb 21

Last night in the lobby* of Alumnae Theatre, director Ali Richardson presented her cast doing a first read-through of the script of The Clean House, the final show in Alumnae Theatre Company’s season.  It was the first time many of the cast had met, but they did an amazing job, aided by producer Laura Jabalee Johnston’s reading of the often-funny stage directions.  Also present for this first read were set designer Orly Zebak, costume designer Daina Valiulis, props designer Helen Monroe, and sound designer Nick Potter.   Stage Manager Lizz Armstrong and Production Manager/lighting designer Steph Raposo unfortunately could not be there; they’re currently working on other shows.  Several Alumnae Theatre Company reps attended by invitation, including bloggergal (yours truly), Alumnae’s President Brenda Darling, and marketing team members Carina Cojeen (who took the photo) and Jeanette Dagger.

Sarah Ruhl’s delightful and semi-mystical play The Clean House was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

L-R: Annemieke Wade (Virginia), Lilia Leon (Ana), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Marina Moreira (Matilde), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer), Ali Richardson (director) at the first read. Neil Silcox (Charles) would be at far left. Photo: Carina Cojeen.

L-R: Annemieke Wade (Virginia), Lilia Leon (Ana), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Marina Moreira (Matilde), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer), Ali Richardson (director) at the first read. Neil Silcox (Charles) would be at far left. Photo: Carina Cojeen.

In it, Lane (played by Andrea Irwin) is a buttoned-up workaholic Connecticut doctor who hires a young Brazilian woman, Matilde (Marina Moreira) as her housekeeper.  But Matilde (the Portugese pronounciation is approximately “ma-chil-jee”) hates to clean – she’d rather spend her time coming up with the perfect joke.  Lane’s sister, Virginia (Annemieke Wade), a bored but smart-mouthed stay-at-home wife, is a confidante to both.   Lane’s surgeon husband Charles (Neil Silcox) is mentioned, but conspicuously absent for almost all of Act I.  He shows up in Act II, falling madly in love with one of his patients, Ana (Lilia Leon).  The resulting love triangle was played out both comically and with deep emotion – a beautiful balancing act by the actors, especially at this early stage.

 

Looking forward to seeing this production as it develops in rehearsals!  The finished article will be presented on the Main Stage at Alumnae Theatre, April 7 – 22.

See the Facebook event (https://www.facebook.com/events/1301005259957126/) and Alumnae Theatre website for more info and news.

PERFORMANCES:  Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sun 2pm.

TICKETS:  2-for-1 Wed; $20 on Thu/Fri/Sat; PWYC Sun.
Purchase online in advance (http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html), or reserve and pay cash on arrival.  Please note that in-person sales are cash only; no credit or debit cards accepted at Box Office.
RESERVATIONS: 416-364-4170, Box 1 or reservations@alumnaetheatre.com.

 

*because every other space in the building was in use – no kidding!  Rehearsals for New Ideas Festival (opening March 8) on both the 2nd floor and in the Studio; and Toronto Irish Players are renting the mainstage for The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down (running to March 4).

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