A housekeeper who hates cleaning prefers trying to dream up the funniest joke in the world, even though she's convinced it might kill her. International City Theatre presents The Clean House, Sarah Ruhl's unpredictable and sublime rumination on the importance of laughter and mess in our lives. caryn desai [sic] directs Rob Roy Cesar, Kathy Bell Denton, Eileen Galindo; Nadia Nardini, and Caryn West in a four-week run opening August 27, with low-priced previews on August 24, 25 and 26.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl once overheard a doctor at a party say, "My cleaning lady is depressed and won't clean my house, so I took her to the hospital and had her medicated, and she still won't clean." Born out of this chance remark was Ruhl's award-winning play, The Clean House, an off beat and quirky comedy in which four markedly different, yet intimately connected women grapple with order, cleanliness, and the messy ambiguities of life. The Clean House is a play of uncommon romance and uncommon comedy about love, loss, and the power of a good joke.
"I like to see people speaking ordinary words in strange places, or people speaking extraordinary words in ordinary places," explained Ruhl in an interview. "Luckily, I was raised by a family who put a premium on humor. A play without some sadness or a play without some humor, to me, doesn't feel like life, I guess."
"There's always a fine line between comedy and tragedy, and it's an especially treacherous balancing act in this play," says desai. "There are moments when the emotional pain of the characters is funny, which may seem cruel. But the script is so well written that we never stop relating to and empathizing with these people."
The Clean House premiered in 2004 at Yale Repertory Theatre. It earned Ruhl the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, awarded annually to the best English-language play written by a woman, and it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, recognizing Ruhl as "a playwright creating vivid and adventurous theatrical works that poignantly juxtapose the mundane aspects of daily life with mythic themes of love and war." It has also received glowing reviews from critics. Variety wrote that "The Clean House marks the arrival of a playwright with a unique comic voice, perspective and sense of theater. A wondrously mad and moving work."The New York Times called it "one of the finest and funniest new plays you're likely to see... tart humor, theatrical audacity and emotional richness."
The set designer for The Clean House is Stephen Gifford; lighting and sound design are by Chris Kittrell; costume design is by Kim DeShazo; property designers are Patty and Gordon Briles; casting is by Michael Donovan Casting; and Shashin Desai produces.
Sarah Ruhl's other plays include In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play (Glickman Prize, finalist for Pulitzer Prize, 2010); Dead Man's Cell Phone (Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play); Demeter in the City (nominated for nine NAACP awards); Eurydice; Melancholy Play; Orlando; a new version of Chekhov's Three Sisters; and Passion Play (Kentucky Center Fourth Forum Freedom Award). Her plays have premiered at the Lyceum Theater on Broadway, and have been produced off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater, Playwrights Horizons and Second Stage. Regionally they've been seen at Berkeley Repertory Theater, Yale Repertory Theater, The Goodman Theater, Cornerstone Theater, Arena Stage, Wooly Mammoth, Cincinnati Playhouse and the Piven Theater Workshop in Chicago, as well as being produced at many other theaters across the country. Her plays have also been performed in England, Poland, Germany, Israel, New Zealand and Australia, and have been translated into Spanish, Polish, Russian, Korean and Arabic.
Director caryn desai [sic] has received numerous awards and nominations including LA Weekly, Drama-Logue, Robby, Ovation and NAACP with credits ranging from classics, to new works, to musicals, to original performance pieces. Recent directing credits at ICT: Bright Ideas, The Sweepers; Five Course Love; The Story; Once on This Island; Dinah Was; A Christmas and Sofa; Having Our Say; Frankenstein; All I Really Need to Know... Kindergarten; Greetings; Beast on Carol; Visiting Mr. Green; Raisin; Master Harold... and the boys; Swinging on a Star; Bed the Moon; Lies and Legends; Tapestry; Jar the Floor; Romance/Romance; Home and A Shayna Maidel. Other credits: A Raisin in the Sun; Shakuntala (also adapted by her); Rashomon; The Importance of Being Earnest; A Piece of My Heart; Joe Turner's Come and Gone; Contradictions (her original work); The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940; Graceland; Lysistrata; Agamemnon; Oedipus; Pvt. Wars; and the world premiere of Instead of Nightmares.