THEATER REVIEWS Good 'Clean' fun at Penna. Playhouse
When a compulsive doctor tries to manage a free-spirited housekeeper, things get all mixed up and more than a little messy in Pennsylvania Playhouse's production of Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House," directed by Tom Brown, through June 23.
Kelly-Anne Rohrbach shines as the Brazilian housekeeper Matilde, who is better at poetry (all in untranslated Portuguese) and empathy, two skills that don't necessarily mean she is a good housekeeper.
Rohrbach has a wonderfully expressive range and looks great in a black dress, with maybe a little too much eye-candy to be in the same house where the husband isn't that committed to his wife.
The husband, Charles (Nick Englesson), is a doctor married to Lane (Amy Cramer), also a doctor. Englesson's interpretation of the role makes it impossible to tell if he is a very slick adulterer or a born-again flower child.
Regardless, Englesson is convincing as an emotion-led soul who is as indifferent to his wife's emotional pain as he is Quixotic in his quest to travel to Alaska to search for a herbal-based medicine to cure cancer.
Charles' wife, Lane, is a star doctor at an "important" hospital, but is compulsively frustrated when she finds dirt in what seems like an already spotless house.
Cramer brilliantly plays Charles' wife. Her portrayal of an uptight, micromanaging boss is very convincing as is her loneliness and grief upon learning of Charles' plan for a new life without her.
Lane is convincingly upset with the astounding reason Charles gives for the breakup. Cramer's portrayal of a skeptical wife is perfect as she listens to his outlandish logic where he cites obscure Jewish law that makes it alright or even best for her.
"You're not even Jewish," says Lane, but it doesn't deter Charles from invoking this extremely convenient loophole in the marriage contact,
Lane's sister, Virginia (Laura Sweeney Riker), is a lost soul who has always lived in the shadow of her sister, the doctor. Virginia is just as high-strung as her sister but at least her compulsions take the useful form of loving to clean house.
Unlike her sister, the doctor, Sweeny-Riker's Virginia is able to have warm friendships with like-minded people. Sweeny-Riker shines in this role and it's fun to see her character develop.
When Virginia meets Matilde, it occurs to her that she could make her new friend happier if she took over the cleaning duties at Lane's house. This leads to a hilarious laundry scene where the two friends muse over the meaning of the underwear they are folding.
The "other woman," Ana, is beautifully acted by Jan Labellarte. The tall, slender and elegant Labellarte captures that charm which foreign lovers seem to have. All the while, she insists she is not a home wrecker.
Dan Lewis' set design is clever and completely believable. J. Bradley Youst's lighting heightens the realism and believability of the proceedings.