The Clean House
At The ACT Theatre
March 30 - April 29
Tickets available @ 206-292-7676 or Online
Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House is a beautiful portrayal of human emotion that rides a very fine line between absurdity and reality, and specifically and artfully portrays very basic human emotion in a captivating and true fashion. The ACT Theatre translates this complex rollercoaster in their spell-binding stage performance that captivates the audience, leaving them laughing, thinking and feeling for each and every character. Their skill in this begins at the pre-show when the audience is introduced to Matt Smucker’s stark-white set of a living room depressed into the surrounding black floor. The modern design of the furniture and the overhanging runway balcony set a mood in an outward appearing clean house. Other additional design choices, including projected phrases onto various points of the set, were used to enhance comedic moments, and add poignant information. As the play progresses, the variability of this set and the intricate interaction it has with the action is uncanny. One moment shows the clean environment of one women’s house as it is littered with the remnants from another house, represented by the balcony, in which her proposed nemesis and cause of emotional turmoil lives.
The set and the costume designs (costumes by Frances Kenny) succeed in showing the inner mechanisms of each character by how they interact with their stark white surroundings and the sharp color contrasts. In a set that lacked many vibrant colors, the lighting design by Michael Wellborn is used to delineate time passage, the focal point of the audience, and the mood of the present scene, whatever it may be. After establishing this world through design, a flexible mold is created for the actors to use as an effective tool. They wholeheartedly accept the reality of the set as an actual living room where they as the characters exist and interact and thus the audience is drawn deeper into their world. Even their private thoughts and emotions take physical form.
This complex world of raw, driven emotions, clearly evident to the audience in portrayed flashbacks and basic interactions, is skillfully carried by the cast in a way that leaves the audience entranced and part of the action. Each member, whether through humor, enclosure of inner feelings, or through love, establishes a well-understood role, and effectively develops it through the show, capturing its relation to everyone else. The relation of the characters to their world is also well understood and represented by the directing of Allison Narver, who employed great timing and blocking in pursuit of revealing the overall purpose of finding each person’s role in the house, whether clean or dirty. Catch The Clean House through the month of April at The ACT Theatre, a compelling and real story of the truths in love, whether present or past.
Review By Jack Jarden and Rick Skyler