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).
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: 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.
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!