The Clean House

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 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."

For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at (562) 436-4610 or go to