Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
“THE CLEAN HOUSE” San Diego Repertory Theatre
“A SHAYNA MAIDEL” – North Coast Repertory Theatre
AIRDATE: MARCH 7, 2008
Two San Diego theater productions have a remarkable amount in common: estranged sisters, united by crisis — struggling with affection, expectation, dreams, fantasies and death. Ultimately, family transcends tragedy.
Both plays are written by women and focused on women. But one is a drama, the other a comedy.
In “A Shayna Maidel ,” at North Coast Repertory Theatre, a pair of sisters, torn apart by the Holocaust, is reunited in a New York City apartment. In “The Clean House,” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, two disparate siblings, with comically different world-views, contemplate cleaning, cancer and camaraderie. The productions share more than a theme of sisterhood.
Both shows get off to a slow start, in timing, pace and tone. But both really deliver in the second act, making us laugh and weep, think and feel, which is just what good theater ought to do. Though these plays have dark themes, they end in a chord of harmony, unity and resilience, and on a note of hope.
In Yiddish, “A Shayna Maidel ” means ‘a pretty girl.’ Rose was the pretty one in the Weiss family. Al so the lucky one; she and her father escaped the Nazi horrors in Poland . But Lucia, sick with scarlet fever, had to stay behind with her mother, and they were carted off a concentration camp. After the war, having lost her mother, husband, best friend and baby daughter, Lucia, a broken woman who speaks broken English, tries to re-connect with what’s left of her family. The reunion speaks to our collective suffering, mis -communication — and humanity. Playwright Barbara Lebow has created a poignant story that resonates in our own war-torn era. And Jessica John is luminous as stooped, sad-eyed Lucia, whom we see in flashbacks as a playful friend and joyful bride. A performance guaranteed to touch – and break – your heart.
It’s all about comedy in “The Clean House.” A Brazilian maid, who hates to clean, spends all her time trying to come up with the perfect Portuguese joke. Her employer , a supercilious doctor, wouldn’t dream of cleaning her own house, but her depressed and disappointed sister secretly does the job. When the doctor is blindsided by her husband’s infidelity, and when illness attacks his new wife, the women unite in a surprising and moving display of amity and solidarity. Humor and hope abound in this Pulitzer Prize nominee, written by MacArthur ‘genius’ Sarah Ruhl . In the San Diego Rep production, standout performances are delivered by Annie Hinton, quirky and comical as the cleaning sister, and Claudia Vásquez as the adorably do-nothing maid.
In these plays, the men serve as catalysts; it’s the sisters who pull each other through.
©2008 PAT LAUNER
“THE CLEAN HOUSE” runs through March 22 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza .
“A SHAYNA MAIDEL” continues through March 23 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach .