Friday, April 18, 2008

Much Ado About The Theatre - By Jack Melichar

The Clean House. Arizona Theatre Company (ATC) has done it again. They have put on an outstanding production of the play penned by Sarah Ruhl. A brief summary – A successful doctor hires a quirky Brazilian maid who hates to clean but loves to make people laugh. When the maid befriends the doctor's oddball sister—who does love to clean—a strange match is made.

It's a fresh, funny offbeat comedy about clean houses, messy lives and the true power of the perfect joke. As I have come to expect from ATC, it is magnificently staged and well acted – a treat in every sense of the word. Variety called the play a "…wondrously mad and moving work…" and Charles Isherwood of The New York Times dubbed it a deeply romantic comedy, "…visionary, tinged with fantasy, extravagant in feeling, maybe a little nuts." Entertainment Weekly magazine named the New York production one of the top ten theatrical attractions of the year.

The play can best be summed up in the very last line, "Everyone needs laughter." I have only one complaint and this has nothing to do with ATC. The woman in front of me smelled like she had taken a bath in either perfume or formaldehyde, and I couldn't be sure which. I have never understood why some women – and some men for that matter – believe they smell like sweaty goats and need to douse themselves so heavily they succeed only in making me cough, sneeze and giving me a headache! There are times when I think I would rather inhale the scent of honest sweat. Then I yank myself back to reality and remember what its like in the summer on Sun Tran but I digress.

This was the last play of the season for ATC, and a fabulous season it was. I am looking forward with baited breath (yes, I do use Listerine, but my breath is still baited) to next year's season. The Clean House will be playing at the Temple of Music and Art through April 26.

The Twilight of the Golds So let me give you a frightening hypothetical question that just might actually become a reality down the road because of the way technology keeps advancing. If there was a medical test that could determine that your child was born with defects, hearing or sight problems, or that it is a girl-but you wanted a boy, or that it will have black hair instead of blonde hair, or that he or she would become Gay, what would you do? Would you have the child? Or have an abortion? Give it up for adoption and try again? What would you do? What would our parents have done if that testing was available during their time? That is the alarming question presented in Jonathan Tolins' play.

Before dinner on Rob Stein (Nathan Tucker) & Suzanne Gold-Stein's (Shawnie Desmond) three year anniversary we – and her parents Phyllis (Renata Rouschen) and Walter Gold (William F. Hubbard) – discover she is pregnant. This brings Rob to reveal that his company has created a medical test that can help determine if the child has medical problems. This causes major debates within the family, but then the test reveals that the unborn boy will be "like David (Jason Cabera)," meaning Gay. This is the match that lights the explosion of emotional bloodshed within the family.

I have some issues with the playwright, however. Too much medical jargon and endless opera references weigh the piece down. I wanted more of the gut-wrenching pain within the family to come forth from the scenes of the play. There is some of that, and when Tolins focuses on those emotions, the play is riveting, powerful, and cathartic. Such as the Act Two scene between David and his parents. That fight struck hard. That's what Tolins needed more of in his play. I also have some issues with the direction as well. Rob needs to slow down – he speaks very rapidly – and project more. Suzanne also needs to project more and realize that putting her hand or finger in front of her mouth while speaking doesn't help. Finally, I truly hope that the accent of Phyllis is hers and not an attempt at a Jewish accent. If it the latter, it a failure. I'm from New York, and Yikes, I should know!

Jason Cabera and William F. Hubbard gave believable and convincing performances and having said all that, I still recommend seeing it. A play doesn't have to be perfect in every respect to deserve a viewing, and remember my job as a critic is to be critical. I went to the theater with a friend who enjoyed the production. It will be at the Catalina Players Theater Academy Hall, 6653 E. Carondolet (behind St. Joseph's Medical Center.

No comments: