The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl (July 2010)
The Clean House is at once a hilarious and tragic peek into the lives of four women brought together by life, circumstance and choices made. Set in America, the story follows Matilde, a young Brazilian woman who is hired to clean Lane’s house. Unbeknownst to Lane, Matilde despises cleaning and wants nothing more than to think up the perfect joke, whilst Lane’s neurotic sister Virginia scrubs away her obsessive thoughts by taking over Matilde’s housekeeping duties. Enter Ana – the woman Lane’s husband is leaving her for – and suddenly, keeping a clean house is the last thing on anybody’s mind.
The straight-forward metaphor for life – a clean house – is surprisingly explored with wit and raucous humour. Not only does this play avoid the seemingly inevitable cliché which may be expected from such an overused premise, the comedic style in which the truly beautiful and tragic events of life are examined, leaves one at times laughing from purest joy to feeling immense grief; magically – at times a little of both. Considering the manic-depressive experiences life dishes out to us, the use of genuine humour in this play is not only welcome, but a necessity to keep the tears (somewhat) at bay.
This play captures the ecstasy and cruelty in life, to be both enjoyed and tolerated, respectively. If the adage is true – you’ve got to take the highs with the lows – then this play encapsulates the meaning of those words. At times cathartic and amusing, saddening and inspiring, this piece replays real life, and just as in real life, the more control the characters attempt to exude over their lives, the more they inevitably lose grip. At the close, one cannot help but feel exhausted and energised, looking forward to the future and at the same time, bracing oneself for impact.
By Anna Tretyakova