TIMES OF SAN DIEGO
Want to hear the funniest joke in the world? Too bad it’s in Portuguese.
Portuguese features prominently in the quirky romantic dramedy, “The Clean House,” where Matilde , the primary speaker of said romance language, has been hired as a live-in housekeeper. But she hates to clean. What she really wants to be is a comedian.
Her parents were the funniest people in their village, always trying to out-humor each other. In fact, when her father came up with a particularly hilarious number to celebrate their anniversary, his wife literally died laughing. They make cameo (fantasy) appearances, dancing and laughing. No one else can see them.
But the homeowner’s sister, Virginia, does see dust. Everywhere. She loves dust. “If it were not for dust, I think I would die,” she says. So she makes a deal with Matilde ; she’ll do all the cleaning, ironing and laundry, as long as her sister doesn’t find out.
The sister and owner of this pristine white home (beautiful design by Brian Redfern ) is Lane, a workaholic doctor, and her doctor-husband, Charles.
Everyone here is unhappy and/or unsatisfied. And then, miracles (of a sort) start to happen. Charles falls madly in love in love with Ana. Lane cuts her hand (intentionally?). But Charles is hellbent on having everyone get along, so he brings Ana into Lane’s living room.
It’s all about the chaos and occasional order of life. Apples tumble into the house. Charles treks off to the Arctic to find a rare tree that might cure Ana’s disease. Lane winds up treating Ana. It’s Ana’s inherent passion, her incredible zest for life, that changes everyone. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a happy outcome for all.
The delicious New Village Arts production is adroitly directed by Claudio Raygoza (founder/artistic director of ion theatre), who finds just the right loopy tone for this operatic romance tinged with fantasy. His cast is strong, with adorable Nadia Guevara perfectly capturing the whimsy and wackiness of Matilde . Catalina Maynard warmly and exuberantly embodies Ana’s joie de vivre. Kristianne Kurner and Tom Deak are solid in the somewhat more colorless roles (Lane and Charles). The scene stealer is Hannah Logan, relentlessly hilarious as the deadpan, depressive, clean-freak Virginia.
In the end, passion and compassion rule. It’s not always easy to figure out the madcap mayhem in this poignant Pulitzer Prize finalist. But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps the comedy and tragedy of life is all one big fat joke – one we’ll never fully understand.
“THE CLEAN HOUSE” runs through October 26, at New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St., Carlsbad
Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm, Sunday at 2pm
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Tickets ($24-$33) are at 760-433-3245; www.newvillagearts.org
©2014 PAT LAUNER