REVIEW – THE CLEAN HOUSE – BUS BARN STAGE COMPANY

There are few things I enjoy less than cleaning. The irony is, I love a clean house. There’s no doubt this trite fact played a certain part in my enjoyment of Bus Barn Stage Company’s latest artistic endeavor on the surface, but do not be fooled, the themes and metaphors of The Clean House go well beyond the title. This is a richly layered play with a tremendous amount of life in it; an intelligent play, intelligently produced and an emotional play produced emotionally.

The Clean House is both complex and simple. The words and themes of the play, as well as their attentive guardians on stage, gently invite you into each moment while surreptitiously planting seeds so they can sneak into your subconscious and your conversation days later. The words spoken, as much as the silences, have a powerful and poetic grasp on our most human mysteries; Life, Death, Love and…Comedy. Oh yes, the quest for the perfect joke and the humor with which our characters face their adversities put Comedy right up there with the big questions.

Five actors portray five marvelous characters with thoughtful kindness and passionate respect. They are as committed to embracing fully each moment of reality as they are each moment of bizarre abstraction and the seamless and uncommon result is that both extremes seem equally believable. The sorrowful plots and tragic pasts (and presents) of our characters bring to this very funny play a contrasting poignancy, which like a Band-Aid being slowly pulled off wounded skin, allows us to experience intermittent moments of pain and relief for these characters.

The world of the play is so confidently and meticulously constructed through script, design, direction and acting that I found I wasn’t even particularly bothered at the theatrical liberties taken when that fourth wall got repeatedly broken. The technical elements all take on that same level of the acute metaphor, giving these character a world that works for them and thus allowing us to not question the mere impossibilities. From the healing angelic yet sterile, antiseptic color of white on set and costumes to subtitles/subtext projected on a side wall to introduce, underscore, or deliver a punchline,  the tech of this show helped to support choices and synchronize us with the characters. 

Tears could rival the copious laughs depending on your particular sensitivity to some themes of this play, but you may also find those more difficult parts cathartic. One way or another I’m wagering you will be moved. An enchanting and evocative 4 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara.  The Clean House plays through June 16th at the Bus Barn Stage in Los Altos.

* It’s worth noting that this theatre is at the mercy of the outside temperature to a certain degree and on a cold night a coat is useful and on a warm night layers are a boon.

Dinner Theatre Pairing:  A quick Facebook poll on Italian in Los Altos almost unanimously pointed me in the direction of Aldo’s and so I plunged head in to a hearty meal at the restaurant just 2 minutes from the theatre. A diverse menu that I think appeals to the family as much to the foodie, the winner of the night for me was the braised duck gnocchi with mushroom ragout. The delicious selection of bread on the table was nearly as impressive.  A large wine list of “affordable” wines by the glass helped the gnocchi go down as did a HUGE cappuccino and  hearty lemoncello dessert at the end of the meal. The decor is quite nice, somewhere in the realm of business casual, but I was surprised to see as many families as I did. They all seemed to be enjoying sharing multiple small plates (Italian tapas) which is really what Aldo’s in known for. Aldo’s is in a great area of Los Altos with plenty of window shopping if you arrive or finish early and ultimately, I’d go back and try some other dishes for sure. Their service was quick and attentive even as they got busy and that’s always a plus so you don’t miss the curtain.

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