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 / email@example.com) and pay cash at the door. PWYC matinee tickets not sold online; no reservations taken for Sundays