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The Clean House

by Sarah Ruhl

A voice teacher/mentor recommended this play to me and mentioned how he enjoyed Ruhl's work because she employs a magical element. After reading The Clean House, I have to agree. This play left me with a feeling similar to when I participated in a reading of John Walch's In the Book Of - the feeling of being transported to a heightened level of reality. A truly theatrical experience.

Apparently people like to write plays about a spouse who leaves his or her significant other for another lover. Quite a popular event. So what makes this play a little different? Well, the main character Lane's husband Charles has left her for another woman, Ana. He brings Ana to meet Lane, wanting everyone to "know each other." Charles claims that he is innocent because, "in Jewish law you are legally obligated to break off relations with your wife or husband if you find what is called your bashert." Bashert is Yiddish for "destiny" or, your soulmate. Ana goes on to explain:
There is a midrash (Hebrew for "study") that says when a baby is forty days old, inside the mother's stomach, God picks out its soul mate, and people have to spend the rest of their lives running around to find each other.
This reminds me of the idea in the Twilight series (I can hear the groans, but stay with me) where the werewolves "imprint" on someone. Basically they fall in love at first sight, but it goes deeper, and they are connected to this person at their very soul. Upon hearing Charles' argument Lane is understandably angry. It is hard to argue with the concept of the bashert, however, if you can give over to the idea that it might be possible.. it's very romantic, even fairy-tale-like.. and who doesn't love a good fairy tale ending? Of course, those endings can be cliche. Ruhl gives us a much more interesting end to the story. Ana gets sick and Lane ends up caring for her husband's new lover until her death. Ana apologizes to Lane, saying, "You must hate me." Lane argues:
If you were really sorry, you wouldn't have done it. We do as we please, and then we say we're sorry. But we're not sorry. We're just - uncomfortable - watching other people in pain. 
Eventually they come to some sort of peace, and as Ana passes away we see the compassion in Lane that was lacking at the beginning of the play. Both women are loving in their way, and both are strong female roles. I get excited when I find characters that I hope to play when I'm older. I think Sarah Ruhl has written some dynamic older women and it gives me hope!

Friday Play-a-day: Speed-the-Plow by David Mamet

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