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From agony, and dust, comes comedy

Air your dirty laundry I say! Air it!

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KEEP IT CLEAN :  The Clean House, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, takes the stage through Sept. 20, Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. When all you want is a clean house, beware, someone just may air your dirty laundry. SLO Little Theatre is located at 888 Morro. Info: 786-2440 or slolittletheatre.org. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SANDRA CORTEZ
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SANDRA CORTEZ
  • KEEP IT CLEAN : The Clean House, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, takes the stage through Sept. 20, Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. When all you want is a clean house, beware, someone just may air your dirty laundry. SLO Little Theatre is located at 888 Morro. Info: 786-2440 or slolittletheatre.org.
New Times Why bring The Clean House to SLO?

 

Elaine Fournier (Virginia) I teach drama and dramatic literature at Cuesta College and came across this playwright—Sarah Ruhl—but we thought we weren’t going to be able to get it, but we got it and the board trusted us. I spoke with Adrian and thought he would like it.

 

Adrian Balbontin, director And I loved it.

 

Fournier This is the process—it took a year and a half.

 

New Times Tell me about The Clean House.

 

Balbontin It’s a clash of cultures. A story of an upper class couple in a metaphysical Connecticut who hire a Brazilian maid to clean their house. The maid doesn’t like to clean and it makes her depressed. She is searching for her own sense of happiness. Everyone in this play believes cleaning is progress except the maid and the older Argentine lady who has cancer, which is a metaphor for dirt. It’s two worlds that rub up against each other. It’s hard to explain this play, to be honest.

 

New Times What do you mean by a “metaphysical Connecticut?”

 

Balbontin Ruhl writes an environment that we are familiar with but doesn’t want to pinpoint it to a certain region. This is modern life. That is why everything in the house has to be white. Ruhl puts a reflection on us and our community and what it means to be in a modern, synthetic society and how we overcome that and how we connect on a human level. She attacks so many genres of theater in this play. It’s an amazing opportunity to give that back to the audience in a way that can only happen on stage. You wouldn’t get the same impact with a movie.

 

New Times How so?

 

Balbontin That is what is so great about this play. … I am a firm believer in the live performing arts. I don’t condone or believe in work that can be easily transferred into a television drama. This play successfully does that in ways I haven’t come across in a long time.

 

Fournier To add to that, because we don’t want to scare away people from the play, this is a really funny play.

 

Balbontin It is; it’s very accessible.

 

New Times Ultimately, what do you think the message is?

 

Balbontin That’s a good question. It depends, since it’s so layered. If you want to clean out your life, be prepared to deal with the dirt.

 

New Times Tell me about your character, Virginia.

 

Fournier Virginia is the wife’s sister, the wife has hired the Brazilian maid. My character loves to clean, so the sister and I are quite different. I make a deal with the maid that I will clean for her. This is a challenging role because I don’t like to clean in real life. I have had to embrace cleaning and what that means to my character. People who love to clean need to ask themselves why.

 

Balbontin Sometimes cleaning is avoiding what you need to confront in life.

 

Fournier She is also the most unintentionally funny person.

 

Balbontin It’s a comedy but unlike some other plays, this play is funny because it’s a reflection of us, simply, and we laugh at that. It’s not meant to demean people, these characters. These are real people with problems that are taken to a higher theatrical level. The audience laughs along with what they are trying to overcome. It skirts the line between comedy and tragedy beautifully.

 

Christy Heron can be reached at cheron@newtimesslo.com.

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