Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review: The Clean House at LSUS Black Box Theater offered domestic comedy, ethereal luminosity and an effective young cast

How strong is the new program at LSUS being directed by Robert Alford, Mary Jarzabek and guest director Pruitt Vince? Is the new Black Box Theater an effective room? And what about the ensemble of drama grads and undergrads being gathered by Alford into a sort of ensemble?

The Clean House was a good testing ground for these questions. Written by Sarah Ruhl, who won a MacArthur Fellowship in '06, it is a romantic comedy about a physician who cannot convince her depressed Brazilian maid to clean her house. Owing to its flights of magical rabbitry, it is not an entirely orthodox comedy.

We saw it on the last Sat of its run and in the first act laughed frequently at the domestic insights and ribaldry (actress Kelly Mills is contemplating the possible owner of the black briefs in the laundry photo above). The interaction between the tightly-coiled Emily Kirkland, playing a doctor, and the oscillating Kelly Mills, the yin-yang sister, was rich. Kirkland whisked, Mills squirreled. Rachael Magill played the fractious maid. Called to fill in at the last minute, Magill anchored the sometimes neutronic ensemble.

Jennifer Lynn Warren performed two roles but became the earth mother goddess of the contemplative second act. The house turned inward in act two, as James Palmer, playing Kirkland's fractal husband, found a soul mate - which was not, alas, his wife. Then the new woman, played with growing luminosity by Warren, is diagnosed with cancer.

Ruhl melds the competing gang into a coherent mass of souls. So did the young actors seem to find a meeting of the energies. While the second act meandered (the performance opened at 8:10, took one intermission, and closed at 10:40 pm), its tone was convincingly ethereal.

The seats were comfortable and the sound and lights were straight in the Black Box Theater. Vince worked the young cast effectively. Each of the actors seemed to us to find their turf.

Bodes well for the Feb production of a play written by Californian Julia Edwards called Family Planning. Edwards will give 3 symposia on her play and a workshop on play writing, too. See more at the new LSUS Theater web site.

No comments: