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Flora Lynn Isaacson

THE CLEAN HOUSE at RVP Scores As Best Play of 85th Season!

With thanks to expert Playwright Sarah Ruhl and the artistic talent of Director JoAnne Winter (Co-Founder and Director of Word for Word Performing Arts Company ), and Set Designer David Shirk’s Academy Award-winning (Visual Effects) design experience, as well as a talented cast, The Clean House is a big hit!

A 2005 Pulitzer-Prize-finalist, The Clean House, is a comic drama that mixes fantasy and reality as it tells the story of five dissimilar people.  Throughout the play, the actors address the audience to talk about themselves or imagine situations involving other characters.  The play opens with three characters coming out to address the audience.  Matilda (Livia Demarchi) comes out first, with a tantalizing untranslated joke told with an exuberance that transmits a fair amount of its humor.  As we learn, she is from Brazil.  Some of the jokes and comments are translated for the audience on a projection screen at the back wall of David Shirk’s elegant white set, which also includes a small stage behind a painting which is lifted to enact Matilda’s description of her parents.  Matilda tells us in her long opening monologue that when she’s not thinking of jokes she gets depressed, and, when she get depressed, she doesn’t like to clean. 

Next, Lane (Sylvia Burboeck), a doctor in her 50s, comes out to explain that Matilda, her Brazilian maid, is depressed and has been failing to clean her house.  She is followed by Virginia (Tamar Cohn), Lane’s older sister, a housewife who argues that people who do not clean their own homes are “insane.”

Virginia persuades Matilda to let her clean her sister’s house on the sly, thereby setting in motion a series of events that gradually re-orders and deepens the relationships among the play’s other characters, who include Lane’s husband Charles (Steve Price), a surgeon, and his new mistress Ana (Sumi Narendran), on whom he recently performed a mastectomy, just after instantly falling in love with her during a breast consultation.

The Clean House is a play that keeps revealing surprising secrets and layers of rich feelings as it goes along.  Director JoAnne Winter blends its contrasting tones with subtle precision.  Her cast displays a keen understanding of Sarah Ruhl’s ability to see the absurdity in extremes of emotions with authenticity.  We may never come to a full understanding of the jokes life plays on us, but the wisest and possibly noblest response is to have a good laugh, anyway.

The Clean House will run through Sunday, June 14th. Thursday shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday Matinees at 2:00 p.m. All performances are at the Barn and Theatre, home of the Ross Valley Players, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., in Ross. To order tickets, call 415-456-9555, ext. 1 or online at

Coming up next at the Ross Valley Players will be Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance,  from July 17 through August 15, 2015, directed by James Dunn.

Flora Lynn Isaacson

Photos by Ross Valley Players