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'The Clean House' review

Catherine Zambri, left, and Deborah Mayo star in

Catherine Zambri, left, and Deborah Mayo star in "The Clean House" at Staller Center, Stony Brook University, through Sept. 30, 2012. Credit: Asylum Theatre Company

Lane and her husband, Charles, are physicians. Neither has time to clean the house they share in a "Twilight Zone" corner of Connecticut. Lane hires a Brazilian comedian-wannabe for the job. But Matilde is more inclined to search for "the perfect joke" -- even though it may kill her -- than to dust.

Don't be fooled by the comic surface of Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House," Staller Center's season opener co-produced with Asylum Theatre Company and the Stony Brook Department of Theatre Arts.

Although Matilde "hates cleaning," the house is spotless, thanks to Virginia, Lane's neat-freak sister whose obsessions are not satisfied by cleaning her own home. Lane is uncomfortable with the arrangement, but she has bigger messes to mop up. Charles has fallen for his 67-year-old mastectomy patient.

As Lane, Valeri Lantz-Gefroh presents a befuddled portrait of a woman in charge of her life -- at least professionally -- while her real-life husband Steven serves up a Charles who behaves like a swooning adolescent in midlife crisis. As Lane's sis, Laura Ross epitomizes the '50s housewife in her flowing Frau frock (costumes by Peggy Morin), singing to a Mr. Clean jingle projected on the spotless wall behind her (lighting by Elizabeth Silver). Ana, Charles' love-patient, is eerily angelic as played by Deborah Mayo. But it is Catherine Zambi's Matilde who sets the metaphysical tone with her mirth-meets-mortality ruminations as we meet her deceased parents via video on Lachlin Loud's upscale domestic set.

Anything but neat, "The Clean House" feels as though someone we know lives there.


WHAT "The Clean House"

WHEN | WHERE Performances at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday are sold out. A performance at 7 p.m. Sunday has been added, Staller Center, Stony Brook University.

TICKETS $28;, 631-632-2787

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