Compared to her compelling In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) or Dead Man’s Cell Phone, playwright Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House (written before the other two) is an uneven work. So is New Village Arts’ production, which has moments (most of them in the first act) of heartfelt intensity but also lapses into self-consciousness and melodramatics. Still, director Claudio Raygoza’s cast is in top form, especially Hannah Logan, playing the cleanliness-obsessed sister to the uptight doctor (Kristianne Kurner) who hires a Brazilian woman (Nadia Guevara), the play’s life force, to be her maid.
Ultimately, The Clean House is about humanity, death and dealing with the requisite messiness of our lives. These points, in spite of the production’s touching lyrical qualities, become heavy-handed in the second act. We don’t need the narrative’s significant moments literally spelled out for us via stage projections, as they are here. Reluctant maid Matilde’s belief in the power of laughter should be enough.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.