You are on page 1of 19

AMERICAN

TtMIRE PLAYSCRIPT

Zilah Mendoza as Matilde in the Yale Repertory Theatre production, Septemher 2004.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT Sarah Ruhl's plays include The Clean House (Susan Smith Blackburn Award, 2004), Melancholy Play, Eury-
Jicc, Late: a cowboy song, Orlando and Passion Play. Recent projects include The Clean House at Yale Repertory Theatre, directed by
Bill Rauch, and Eurydice at La Jolla Playhouse, directed by Daniel Fish. Her plays have been performed at the Actors TTieatre of Louisville,
Madison Repertory Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Actors Centre in London, Clubbed Thumb in New York, Trinity
Repertory Company in Providence, the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Actors" Gang Theatre in Hollywood; as well as at
Vassar College, Princeton University and Brown University. Her work has been developed in New York at such theatres as the Public The-
ater, Playwrights Horizons and tbe Underwood Theater; and regionally at Arena Stage, McCarter Thearre Center, Seattle Repertory The-
atre, South Coast Repertory and About Face Thearre. She received her MFA from Brown University, where she studied with Paula Vogel.
She is originally from Chicago, where her plays were first produced by Joyce Piven at the Piven Theatre Workshop. In 2003, she was the
recipient of a Helen Merrill Award and a Whiting Writers' Award. She is a member of New Dramatists.

ABOUT THE PLAY The Clean House was developed at the McCarter Thearre Center (directed by Rebecca Brown), Seattle Repertory The-
atre (directed by Kristin Newboni), the Underwood Theater [directed by Moises Kaufman), the Piven Theatre Workshop (directed by Jes-
sica Thebus), the Women's Project {directed by Mark Wing-Davey) and South Coast Repertory (directed by Bill Rauch). It premeired at Yale
Repertory Theatre (James Bundy, artistic director; Victoria Nolan, managing director) in New Haven, Conn., on Sept. 17. The production
was directed by Bill Rauch; sets were by Christopher Acebo, lighting by Geoff Korf, sound and original music by Andre Pluess and cos-
tumes by Shigeru Yaji. The dialect coach was Stephen Gabis, the dramaturg was Rachel Rusch and the production stage manager was James
Mountcastle. The cast featured Tom Bloom as Charles, Franca M. Barchiesi as Ana, Laurie Kennedy as Virginia, Zilah Mendoza as Matilde
and Elizabeth Norment as Lane.

Thank you. in no particuiar order, to: Kathj- Ruhl, Joytc Piven, Bill Rauch, Jessica Thchiis, Daniel Fiiih. Rebecca Brown, Julierte Carillo, Mark Wing-Davey, Janice Paran, Lisa McNiilty,
l.i/ l".nydm;lil. R.lndy Danscn, C'ute de Pablo, [Tanira Barchiesi. Marsha Mason, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Louise Burke, Christopher Acebo. Rachel Rusth, Ancirc l'luess, Giovanna Sardelli,
Peter Strauss, Mary Lou Rosaco, Li/bech McKay, Joan Macintosh, IVOHHL' Coll, Zilah Mendoza, Laurie Kennedy, Carmen de Lavallade, Tom Bloom, Elizabeth Normeni. .^niy War-
ren. Bernif Deck, Mary Ann Thebus, Kristin Newbom. Chris Sumptinn. .Merv .Antonio, Olga Sanchez, Richard Sanders, Mandy Hackett, Moises K.iufman, Jerry Patch, Kathleen Tolan,
Kafcn Zacarids, Julia Cho, lorgc Cotrinas, Andy Brap,en, t!aridad bvich. OctavioSolis, Fernando Oliveira. Anna Fluck, Elizabeth Jackson. Blair Brown. Mimi Kiisore, Veronica Cruz,
Paula Vogcl, Oaig Watson. Tin.l Howe, the Women's I'roiea. Yale Repertory Theatre, the McCarter Thearre Center, Seattle Repertory Theaite. the Underwood Theater, the Piven
Thi'acre Workshop, everyone at the Lark Pla; Development Cetiter, Siiuih Coast Repi-ttory. the Wilma Theiier, Woolly Matiimoth Theatre. —Sjrab Riihl

The CleMi House, copyright © 21)04 by Sarah Ruhi. All inquiries regariiitig rights should be addressed to Bruce Ostler, Bret Adams Ltd,. 44fi West 44th St, New York, N^' 10036,
1212) 765-5(130. Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that performances of The Clean House are subjea to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the
United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright: union (including the Pominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of

N o \ t; M B F. R 2 0 0 4 A M E R I C A N T H E A T R E A9
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

CHARACTERS They fall in love some more. E: And would she use my car?
Lane, a doctor, ii woman in her early They fall in love completely. HUSBAND: No, she doesn't drive.
fifties. She wears white. Matiide tries to think up the perfect joke.
Miitilde, Lane's cleaning lady, a woman in Lane makes a house call to her husband's JOKE #2: Por que os homens na cama sao
her late twenties. She wears black. She soul mate. como comida de microondas? Estao prontos
is Brazilian. She has a refined sense of Lane forgives Ana. em trinta segundos.
deadpan. Lane calls Virginia. Translation: Why are men in bed like
Virginia, Lane's sister, a woman in her late The funniest joke in the world. microwave food? They're done in thirty sec-
fifties. onds.
A Man, a man in his late fifties. In Act 2, A NOTE ON JOKES
the Man becomes Charles. I want the choice of jokes to be somewhat JOKE #3: O meihor investiniento que existe
Charles is a compassionate surgeon. He is open, allowing for the possibility that different e compiiir um argentino pelo valor que ele vale
childlike underneath his white coat. productions may come up with different e depois vende-Io pelo valor que ele acha que
A Woman, in her sixties. Or seventies. It is and more perfect Brazilian jokes. So please viile.
important that she be older than Lane. use these jokes as you will. Translation: The best investment ever is to buy
In Act 2, the Woman becomes Ana. an Ai^gentinean for what he is really worth and
Ana is Argentinean. She is impossibly JOKE #1: Tem um casal na cania depois de later sell him for what he thinks he is worth.
charismatic. fazer amor. Ela vira para o marido e pergunta,
"Se eu morresse voce casava outra vez?" O A NOTE ON LULLABIES
Everyone in this play should be able to tell marido responde, "Claro que nao!" There are many beautiful Brazilian lulla-
a really good joke. MUHLER: Nao?! Por que nao?! Nao gosta de bies. We used this one in the first production:
estar casado?
M.^RIDO: Claro que gosto!!! Se essa rua, se essa rua fosse minha
SET MUHLER: Entao por que e que nao casava de Eu mandava, eu mandava ladrilhar
A white living room. novo? Com pedrinhas, com pedrinhas de brilhante
White couch, white vase, white lamp, Ai o marido para e pensa um pouco, "Ta bom, P'ra Matiide, so p'ra Matiide passar
white rug. casava...
A balcony. MUHI.KR (com um olhiir magoado): Casava? If that street, if that street were mine
MARIDO: Casava. So porque foi bom com I would have ic, I would have it paved
PLACE voce. With little stones, with little diamond
A metaphysical Connecticut. MUHLKR; E ia dormir com ela na nossa cama? stones
MARIDO: Onde mais? For Matiide, only for Matiide to go by.
A NOTE ON SUBTITLES MLFHLER: E ia trocar as minhas fotografias por
The director might consider projecting sub- fotografias dela? A NOTE ON DANCING
titles in the play (sparingly] for some scene titles MARIDO: Claro.... If you cast a really good dancer in the role of
and some stage directions. In the first pro- MUHI.ER: E ela ia usar o meu carro? Ana, you might change Matilde's line in
duction, we used: MARIDO: Nao. Ela nem dirige... Scene 6 to: "My father is not the best dancer
Translation: There's a couple in bed and in the world." And you might consider stag-
A woman tells a joke in Portuguese. they've just made love. The woman turns to ing a rather lengthy samba in that scene.
Lane. her husband and aks, "Would you marry
Virginia. again?" The husband says, "Of course not!" A NOTE ON
Matiide. WIFE: Why not? Don't you like being married? PRONUNCIATION
Matilde tries to think up the perfect joke. HUSBAND: Of course I do. Marilde is pronounced by the Americans in
Matiide tries to think up the perfect joke. wiFi:: Then why wouldn't you marry again? the play as Matilda. It is pronounced by
Virginia and Lane experience a primal The husband thinks about it and says: "Okay, Ana as Mathilda. And it is pronounced by
moment in which they are 7 and 9 I'll marry again." Brazilians and the more observant characters
years old. WIFE (With a pained lookj-.yoa'W marry? in the play as time goes on as Ma-chil-gee.
Virginia has a deep impulse to order the HUSBAND: I'll marry. Because it was so good
universe. with you. This play is dedicated to the doctors
Charles performs surgery on the woman he wii P.: So would you sleep with her in our bed? in my life.
loves. HUSBAND: Where else?
Ana. x^tEF: And would you replace my photographs
Charles. with her photographs!
They fall in love. HUSBAND: Of course.

N O V E M B E R 2 0 0 4 A M E R I C A N T H E AI R E B 1
THE C L E A N H O U S E S A R A H R U H L

THE CLEAN ing her own house. Something deeply per-


sonal—she has given up. She does not know
MATH OF.: Yes.
I.ANE: Soon?

HOUSE how long it takes the dust to accumulate


under her bed. She does not know if her
MATILDE: Yes.
Matilde looks at Lane.
husband is sleeping with a prostitute because 1 AN!'.: The house is very dirty.
ACT ONE she does not smell his dirty underwear. All of Matilde is silent.
these things, she fails to know. I AM : This is difficult for me. I don't like to
1. Matilde I know when there is dust on the mirror. Don't order people around. I've never had a live-in
MatiUie tells a long joke in Portuguese to the misunderstand me—I'm an educated woman. maid.
iuuiience. But if I were to die at any moment during the Matilde is silent.
We can tell she is telling a joke even though day, no one would have to clean my kitchen. LANi-.: Matilde—what did you do in your
we might not understand the language. country before you came to the United States?
She finishes the joke. 4. Matilde ^L^^^l DH: 1 was a student. 1 studied humor. You
She exits. Matilde. to the audience. know—jokes.
MATii DK: The stor>- of my parents is this. It was LANF.: I'm being serious.
2. Lane said that my father was the funniest man in MATILDF: I'm being serious, too. My parents
Line, tv the audience. his village. He did not marr>- until he was sixt>"- were the funniest people in Brazil And then
LANK: It has been such a hard moiuh. three because he did not want to marry a they died.
My cleaning lady—from Brazil—decided woman who was not funny. He said he would LANF: I'm sorry.
that she was depressed one day and stopped wait until he met his match in wit. That must be very difficult.
cleaning my house. And then one day he met my mother. He used MATILDE: I was the third funniest person in my
I was like: clean my house! to say: your mother—and he would take a long family. Then my parents died, making me the
And she wouldn't! pause— (Matilde takes a long pause) —is fun- first funniest. There was no one left to laugh
We took her to the hospital and I had her med- nier than 1 am. We have never been apart since at my jokes, so I left.
icated and she Still Wouldn't Clean. the day we met, because 1 always vi'anted to LANL: That's very interesting. I don't—
And—in the meantime—I've been cleaning know the next joke. always—understand the arts. Listen. Matilde.
my house! My mother and father did not look into each I understand that you have a life, an emotional
I'm sorry, bur I did not go to medical school other's eyes. They laughed like hyenas. Even life—and that you are also my cleaning lady.
to clean my own house. when they made love they laughed like hye- If 1 met you at—say—a party—and you said,
nas. My mother was old for a mother. She said I am from a small village in Brazil, and my
3. Virginia it took time for a woman to develop a sense parents were comedians, I would say: that's
Virginia, to the audience. of humor. She refused many proposals. It very interesting. You sound like a very mter-
VIRGINIA: People who give up the privilege would kill her, she said, to have to spend her esting woman.
of cleaning their own houses—they're insane days laughing at jokes that were not funny. But life is about context.
people. (Pause) And I have met you in the context of my house,
If you do not dean: how do you know it' >'ou've I wear black because I am in mourning. My where I have hired you to clean. And I don't
made any progress in life? I love dust. The dust mother died last year. Have you ever heard want an interesting person to clean my house.
always makes progress. Then I remove the dust. the expression: I almost died laughing? Well I just want my house—cleaned.
That is progress. that's what she did. The doctors couldn't Lane is on the verge of tears.
If it were not for dust I think I would die. If explain it. They argued, they said she choked MATH DF: Is something wrong?
there were no dust to clean then there would on her own spit, but they don't really know. LANE: No, it's just that—I don't like giving
be so much leisure time and so much think- She was laughing at one of my father's jokes. orders in my own home. It makes me—
ing time and I would have to do something A joke he took one year to make up, for the uncomfortable. 1 want you to do all the
besides thinking and that thing might be to anniversary of their marriage. When my things I want you to do without my having
slit my wrists. mother died laughing, my father shot himself. to tell you.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha just kidding. And so I came here, to clean this house. NL'\Tii.nF: Do you tell the nurses at the hospital
Fm not a morbid person. That just popped out! what to do?
My sister is a wonderful person. She's a doc- 5. Lane and Matilde LANE: Yes.
tor. At an important hospital. I've always won- Lane enters. M.\TILDF: Then pretend I am your nurse.
dered how one hospital can be more important Matilde is looking out the luindow. LANE: Okay.
than another hospital. They are places for lANF: Are you all right? Nurse—would you polish the silver, please.
human waste. Places to put dead bodies. MATIl.Dh; Yes. .MATILDE: A doctor does not say: Nurse—
I'm sorry. I'm being morbid again. 1 ANf: Would you please clean the bathroom would you polish the silver, please.
My sister has given up the privilege of clean- when you get a chance? A doctor says: Nurse—polish the silver.

6 2 A M E R I C A N T H E A T R E N O V E M B E R 2004
T H E C L E A N H O U S E S A R A H R U H L

[,ANH,: You're right. Nurse—polish rhe silver. viluiiMA: No. I mean—am I interrupting you? Then she wipes her dirty finger on her skirt.
MATILDE: Yes, doctor. MATUDt:: N o . I was just—cleaning. Your sis- Then she tries to clean ber skirt but she has
Matilde gets out silver polish and begins ter is at work. nothing to clean it with.
polishing. viRC.iNiA: She's always at work. Matilde comes hack and giues her the coffee.
Liwe watches her for a mometit, then exits. MAI iLDi: Would you like to come in.^ ViRf.iNiA: Thank you.
VIRGINIA: Yes. Actually—I came to see you. MAiiLDi;: You're welcome.
6. Matilde They enter the living room. Virginia drinks the coffee.
Matildi' stops cleaning. VIRGINIA: Lane tells me that you've been teel- VIRGINIA: This is good coffee.
MAiii n i : I'his is how 1 imagine my parents. ing a little blue. MATH 1)1: We make good coffee in Brazil.
Music. MATII.OFL: Blue? vmtilNiA: Oh—that's right. You do!
A dashing couple appears. viRClNiA: Sad. MATil.DE: Does that help you to place me in
Mkin.lWi They are dancing. MATii.Di:: Oh. She told you that? my cultural context?
They are not the best dancers in the world. VIRGINIA: Come, sit on the couch with me. VIRGINIA: Lane didn't describe you accurately.
Tlicy laugh until laughing makes them kiss. MAIILDIi: Okay. H o w old are you?
They kiss until kissing makes them laugh. Virginia goes to sit on the couch. MATlLDi;: Young enough that my skin is still
They dance. She pats the couch. good.
They laugh until laughing makes them kiss. Matilde sits down next to her. Old enough that I am starting to think: is my
They kiss until kissing makes them laugh. VIRGINIA: Do you miss home? skin still good?
Matilde luatches. MATILDE: Of Course I do. Doesn't everyone? Does that answer your question?
viRtilNlA: Is that why you've heen sad? V]R<,INIA: Yes. You're twenty-seven.
7. Virginia and Matilde MATii.DE: No. I don't think so. It's just that— Matilde nods.
The dinyrbt'll rings. I don't like t o clean houses. I think it makes MATILDA: You're good.
The music stops. me sad. VIRGINIA: Thank you.
Matilde's parents exit. VIRGINIA: You don't like to clean houses. Virginia looks furtively toward the door.
They blow kisses to Matilde. MATII-DF.: No. VIRGINIA: Listen. Matilde. (American pro-
Matilde waves back. VIRGINIA: But that's so simple! nunciation)
The doorbell rings again. MATILDK: Yes. MATILDE (Brazilian pronunciation): Matilde.
Matilde answers the door. VIRGINIA: Why don't you like to clean? VIRGINIA: Yes.
MATIl.Dt-: Hello. MATH DH: I've never liked to clean. When I was I have a proposition for you.
vrRGINIA: Hello. You are the maid? a child 1 thought: if the floor is dirty, look at MATILDE: A proposition?
.MATIlDf:: Yes. the ceiling. It is always clean. VIRGINIA: A deal.
You are the sister? V[R(.INIA: I like cleaning. I like to clean. You do not tike to clean.
viK(;iNiA: Yes. MATILOK: You do? Why? Why don't I clean for you.
H o w did you know? viRt;iNlA: It clears my head. MATH D1-: You're joking.
MAllLDL: I dusted your photograph. MATILDE: So it is, for you, a religious practice? VIRGINIA: N o .
My boss said: this is my sister. We don't VIRGINIA: N o . It's just that: cleaning my MATILDE: I don't get it.
look alike. house—makes me feel clean. What do you want from me?
I thought: you Jon't look like my boss. You NL\HLl)E: But you don't clean other people's viRCilNIA: Nothing.
must be her sister. houses. For money. MATILDE: Then—why?
My name is Matilde. (Braziticin pronuncia- VIRGINIA: No—I clean my own house. VIRGINIA; I have my house cleaned by approx-
tion of Matilde} MATII.DE: I think that is different. imately 3:12 every afternoon. I have folded
VlRcrNlA; I thought your name was Matilde. VIRGINIA: D o you feel sad while you are the corner of every sheet. The house is quiet.
(American pronunciation of Matilde) cleaning? O r before? Or after? The gold draperies are singing a little lullaby
: Kind of. MAI iLDi:: I am sad when I think about clean- to the ottoman. The silverware is gently
: Nice to meet you. ing. But I try not to think about cleaning while sleeping in its box. I tuck in the forks, the
MATIMM:: Nice to meet you. I don't know your I am cleaning. 1 tr>' to think of jokes. But some- spoons, the knives. I do not have children.
name. times the cleaning makes me mad. And then MAIiLDt: I'm sorry.
V1RC;1NIA: O h ! My name is Virginia. I'm not in a funny mood. And that makes me viRCilNiA (Faster and faster): Don't be sorry.
MAIII-DK: Like the state? sad. Would you like a coffee? My husband is barren. Is that the right word
vmciNlA: Yes. VIRGINIA: I would love some coffee. for a man? 1 never thought that the world was
Matilde continues to stand in front of the door. Matilde goes to get a cup of coffee from the quite good enough for children anyway. I did-
MAiii.Uh: Tve never been to Virginia. kitchen. n't trust myself to cope with how sick and ugly
vfRGINIA: Maybe I should go. Virginia puts her finger on the tabletops to the world is and how beautiful children are
r: To Virginia? test the dust. and the idea of watching them grow into the

N ( 1 V I: M B !• A M fc K 1 L A N T U [• A 53
THE C L E A N H O U S E SARAH R U H L

dirt and mess of the world—someone might She undoes the hottle, coucb. He takes up the rigbt amount of
kidnap them or rape them or otherwise tram- takes one pill out, space. A man should not be too beautiful. Or
ple on their innocence, leaving tliem in the mid- looks at it, too good in bed, A nun should be—functional.
dle oi the road, naked, in some perverse and throws it in the garbage can. And well chosen. Otherwise you're in
sexuj] position, to die while strangers rode trouble.
past on bicycles and tried not to look. I've 9. Matilde M.vniT>E: Does he make you laugh?
thought iiboiit dotng some volunteer work, MAI 111)1 (]\> the audience): The perfect joke \'ii{t..lsiA: Ob, no. Something uncontrollable
hut I don't know who to volunteer tor. makes you forget about your life. The perfect would come out of my mouth wlicn be
A pause. She looks at Matilde. joke makes you remember about your life. The wanted it to. 1 wouldn't like that.
VIH(,INI;\: Since I was twenty-two, my life perfect joke is stupid when you writt" it MAlil.Di: A good joke cleans your insides
has gone downhill, and not only have I not down. The perfect joke was not made up by out. If I don't laugb for a week, 1 feel dirty.
done what I wanted to do, but 1 h.ive lost the one person. It passed through the air and you I feel dirty now, like my insidcs are rotting.
quiilities and temperament that would help caught it. A perfect joke is somewhere between viHt.iNiA: Someone should make you laugh.
me reverse the downward spiral—and now an angel and a fart. Vm nor the person to do it.
I am a completely different person. Tbis is how I imagine my parents: MATUUE: My mother once said to me: Matilde,
I don't know why I am telling you all of Music. in order to tell a good joke, you have to
this, Mathalina. Miitilde's mother and father appear. believe that your problems are vcr>' small, and
Matilde and Virginia look at each other. They sit at a cafe. tbat rhe world is very big. She said: if more
Matilde thinks ahout correcting Virginia. My mother and father are at a cafe. women knew more jokes, there would be more
She doesn't. My mother is telling my father a joke. justice in this world.
M.'Mlini-: Go on. It is a dirty joke. Virginia starts folding underwear.
viRc ,iNi.\: I used to study Greek literature. One My father is laughing so hard that he is bang- Matilde watches.
summer my husband and 1 went to Europe. ing his knee on the underside of the table. \iK(.iMA: I've never seen my sister's underwear
It was supposed to be relaxing but I have trou- My mother is laughing so bard that she spits before.
ble relaxing on vacations. We were going to (Hit her water. MAiiiDi: Her underwear is practical. And
see ruins and I was going to write about I am with them at the cafe. 1 am eigiit yejis oid. white.
ruins but 1 found that 1 had nothing to say I say: what's so funny? Virginia continues to fold underwear.
about them. I thought: why doesn't someone (1 hate not understanding a joke.) VIRC.IMA: I wonder if Lane bas gone througb
just sweep them up! Get a very large broom! My mother says: menopause yet. Her underwear is very white.
I'm sorry. I was trying to say... Ask me again wben you're thirty. Some women tbrow out underwear when tbey
MAI II ni; You were telling me bow y<)ur life Now I'm almost tbirty. And I'll never know get a blood stain. Other women keep wasb-
has gone downhill since you wet e twenty two. the joke. ing tbe stain.
viRtilNlA: Yes. The point is: every day my house Matilde's mother and father look at her. MATILDE: I can't afford to throw away under-
is cleaned by 3 o'clock. I have a lot of—time. They exit. wear. If I could, believe me, I would. I would
I'd be ver>' happy to come here and clean Lane s buy new underwear every day: purple, red,
house before Lane gets home from work. That 10.Virginia and Matilde gold, orange, silver...
is what I'm telling you. Only don't tell her. She The next day. Virginia folds a pair of men's underwear.
wouldn't like it. Virginia folds laundry. viRCiNiA: It's a little weird to be touching my
MAI I! 1)1:1 will let you clean the house if it will Matilde watches. brotber-in-law's underwear.
make you feel better. Virginia is happy to be cleaning. He's a very bandsome man.
vim.lMA: Let's start in the bathroom. I love MAiiint.: You're good at that. When be and Lane first met, I thougbt: Lane
cleaning the toilet. It's so dirty, and then it's \'IR(.INIA: Thank you. gets the best of everything. A surgeon. With
so clean! .MATH ni-: You want to bear a joke? a specialty. He's—cbarismatic.
vmt.lNiA: Not really. Virginia touches her brother-m-law's under-
8. Lane and Matilde MAru.DH: Why? wear as she folds.
Matilde is reading the funny papers. VIIUilNIA: I don't like to laugh out loud. V1R(.1MA: Tben I tbougbt: it's better to bave
Lane enters. MAI 11.1)1: Why? a busband wbo is not tin) handsome. Tben
1 ANi:: It's so clean! VIRGINIA: 1 don't like my laugh. It's like a you don't worry about bim.
MAlii.i'i: Yes. wheeze. Someone once told me that. Wbo was Virginia continues to fi)id underwear.
I AN>: The medication is helping? it—my husband? Do you have a husband? She comes across a pair of tvonien's black
MATH Db: I'm feeling much better. MATUUE: No. underwear.
LANI-; Well—that's terrific. viR(,iNiA: That's good. viRciNiA: These don't look like Lane.
Lane exits. MATH 1)1: Do you like your husband? M.Vni D1-: N o .
Mjtilde takes out her medication. \'lRt.lN'IA: My husband is like a well-placed vnu.lNiA: Too shiny
64 r K 11 A \ T H E A T R E N o V 2 (t I) 4
T H E C L E A N H O U S E S A R A H R U H L

MAI II 1)1-: T o o sexy.


Matilde and Virginia look at each other.

11.Lane and Virginia


have coffee
Lane and Virginia have coffee in the living
room.
viRCiiNiA: The house is so clean!
1 AN'!.: Thanks.
vin(,iMA: It's working out-—with your maid?
What's lier name?
I ANl' (American proniinciatiofi): Matilde.
ViRiiiNiA: That's right. Matilde. (Americanpro-
niinciatioti)
Don't they say Matilde (Brazilian pronun-
ciation) in Rrazil?
I AN1-: I don't know.
\iKiilN!A: I think rhey do.
I ANli: H o w would you know?
Virginia shrugs.
VIKt.IMA: M m . . .
I ANh: Well, I'm sure she would tell me if I were
saying her name wrong. Anyway. She seems Matilde (Zilah Mendaza) and Laurie Kennedy as Virginia.
much better. How are you?
vmc.iNiA: Oh, fine. I should have introduced you. I can't get LANI-: Next week is crazy. But soon.
How's Charles? used to having another person m the house. Virginia nods.
LANE: Why do you ask? VMUilNiA: Mmm. Yes. It must make you
VIRGINIA: N o reason. uncomfortable to—I don't know—read a 12.Lane and Matilde
LANh: He's Hne. magazine while someone cleans up after Night.
VIRGINIA: That's good. The last time I saw you. Matilde is trying to think up a joke.
Charles was Christmas. You both work so LAN!: I don't read magazines, Virginia. I go A stihtitle projects:
hard. to work exhausted and I come home MATIIDI TKirS TO THINK Ul' IHii PERFECT
I.ANE: He's been doing nine surgeries a day— exhausted. That is how most of the people in JOKE.
we hardly see each other. I mean, ot^ course this country function. At least people who have Matilde looks straight ahead,
we see each other, but, you know how it is. jobs. in the dark, in the living room.
More coffee? A pause. She thinks.
VIRGINIA; N o , thanks. For a moment. Lane comes home frotn work.
i ANi:: Matilde! Could you clear these, please? Lane and Virginia experience She turns a light on.
Matilde enters from the kitchen. u( prifnal nionient during which they LANE: Oh! You startled me.
MAllinr (To Virginia): Your cup, miss? are seven and nine years old, MATILDE: You Startled me too.
VIHGINIA: Oh, I'll get it— inside the mind, respectively. LANt: What are you doing in the dark?
Matilde winks at Virginia. They are mad. MATII-Dh: I was trying to think up a joke.
Matilde clears the plates. Then they return quite naturally I almost had one.
vim.iNiA: Thanks. to language, as adults do. Now it's gone.
MATILDE: Did everyone like their coffee? IANE: Sorry—I didn't mean— LANE: Oh—well—can you get it back again?
1.ANH and VlRCilNIA: Yes. VIRGINIA: I know. MATILDE: I doubt it.
.MATH Di: Good. At the same time: LANK: Oh.
She exits. VIRi;i\IA: LANE: Is Charles home?
LANE: Oh. Thar's Matilde. Sorry. That was Are you—? I keep meaning to^—• MATILDE: N o .
rude. 1 should have introduced you. Or is it viR(.i\iA: What? LANF: D i d he call?
rude? Do you introduce the maid to the 1ANH: Oh—it's just—I keep meaning to have MATH Di:: N o .
company? you two over for dinner. It's ridiculous— LANF: Oh, well, he's probably fust sleeping at
\iiu .i\'iA: I'm not the company. I'm your sister. living so close and never seeing each other. the hospital.
LANF: You're right. VIRGINIA: You're right. Maybe nexr week? Matilde is silent.

N O V E M B E R 2 0 (I 4 A M E R I C A N T H I A I K I
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

l.ANF: Sometimes there's no time to call home on the <iiitside. I'm kniking for the perfect joke, Lane enters.
from the hospital. You're going from patient hut I'm afraid if I found it, it would kill me. Her left hand is bleeding.
ro patient, and it's—you know—crazy. When Virginia comes upon a pair of women's red She holds it with a dish towel.
we were younger—Charles and I—if we had underwear. VIRGINIA: Lane—what—are you—?
a crazy night at the hospital—we would VIRGINIA: My God! LANE: I'm disguising myself as a patient.
page each other, we had this signal—2 for good .MATlini: Oh... viRt;iNiA: That's not funny.
night and 3 for—well, I don't know why (As in. He wouldn't dare) No— LANE: I cut myself.
I'm rhmkmg about this right now. The point VIRGINIA: N o . They look at her. alarmed.
is—when you get older, you just know that MATILDE (As in. He might dare): But— LANE: Don't worry. Even my wounds are
a person is thinking of you, and working hard, VIRGINIA: Do you think—here—in rhe house? superficial.
and thinking of you, and you don't need MATU.OE: Mayhe a park. I bet he puts them VIRGINIA: Lane?
them to call anymore. Since Charles and I are in his pocket, afterwards, and forgets, because LANi-": Can opener. I was making a martini.
both doctors we hoth—understand—how he's so happy, -^nd then she's walking around VIRGINIA: Why do you need a can opener to
it is. for the day, with no underwear, and you make a martini?
MATTLDF: Mmm. know what? She probably likes it. I ANt:: I didn't have the right kind of tucking
A silence. VIRGINIA: I hope it's not A nurse. It's such a olives, okay? I only have black olives! In a can.
1.ANK: Well, good iiighr. cliche. \'iRt,iN[A: Lane?
MATILDE: Good night. MATILDE: If she's a nurse, they would pass each LANE: He's gone off with a patient.
LANE: Are you going to—just—sit here? other in the hospital, and she would say, VIIU.INIA: What?
MATlLDK: I might Stay up a little longer to— hello doctor. And she knows, and he knows: LANE: His patient.
what's the word?—tidy up. no underwear. MATlLDF.: Oh...
LANK: Oh. Great. Just shut the hght off when VIRGINIA: No underwear in a hospital} It's LANE: Yes.
you— unsanitary. Virginia and Matitde glance toward the red
Matilde turns the light off. MATILDE: Or—m.iybe he just likes women's underwear and look away.
: Oh. Good night. underwear. He might try them on. VIRGINIA: He did a—?
K: Good night. VIRGINIA: Charles.' No! I.ANE: Mastectomy. Yes.
Lane exits. MATILDE: It's possible. You don't like to think VIRGINIA: Wow. That's very—
A subtitle flashes: about it, because he's your brother-in-law, but : Generous of him?
.\LATIL1U; TRIti 1 0 THINK UP THF. rKKb-tXT JOKf,. these things happen, Virginia. They do. ^: A mastectomy?
She shakes her head. Lane enters. Virginia gestures toward her breast.
Virginia quickly puts down the iron and sits Matitde nods.
13.Virginia and Matilde. down. VIRGINIA: How old is she?
Then Lane. Matilde stands and begins to iron. LANE: * Sixty-seven.
Virginia irons. Virginia hides the red underwear. (*This line may be changed depending on the
Matilde watches. LANL (To Virginia): What are you doing here? age of the actress)
MATlLDE: I have a really good joke coming. VIRGINLV: Nothing. VIRGINIA and MATILDE: Oh!
VIRGINIA: That's good. How was work? LANE: What?
MAni-DK: You know how most jokes go in Lane doesn 't say anything. VIRGINIA: Not what I expected.
threes? Like this; Da da DA. I'm making up She tnoves to the kitchen. LANE: A young nurse? The maid? No. He's in
one that goes in sixes: Da da Da da da DA. VIRGINIA: Where are you going? love.
VIRGINIA: I didn't know jokes had time sig- LANE: I'm going in the other room to shoot VIRGINIA: But—with ^tn older woman?
natures. myself. LANE: Yes.
MAI ll.DK: Oh, they do. Ask me what my pro- VIRGINIA: You're joking, right? viRCiiNiA: I'm almost—impressed. She must
fession is, then ask me what my greatest I ANh (From the kitchen): Right. have—substance.
problem is. Matilde and Virginia look at each other. LANE: She's not a doctor.
VIRGINIA: What's your profession? Matitde folds underwear. MRGINIA: Well, most men in his position...
MATILDE: I'm a comedian. Virginia sits. he's still—so—good-looking...
VIRGINIA: What's your— Virginia stands. I.ANE: Virginia!
,\L\Tii DV; Timing. Virginia sits. VIRGINI.A: Sorry.
Matilde laughs. Virginia stands. LANK: I've never been jealous, I've never been
VIRGINIA: That's good. Virginia has a deep impulse to order the suspicious. I've never thought any other
MAllLDK: But you're not laughing. universe. woman was my equal. I'm the best doctor.
VIRC;:NIA: I'm laughing on the inside. Virginia arranges objects on the coffee table. Tm the smartest, the most well-loved by my
MAni DE: Oh. 1 like it better when people laugh VIRGINIA (Calling to Lane): Lane? patients. I'm athletic. 1 have poise. I've aged
6 0 A M t K I t: A N T ^[ E A T H ii 20 0 4
T H E C L E A N H O U S E S A R A H R U H L

well. I can calk ro anyone and be on equal i^oot- VIRGINIA: She's noc depressed. She doesn'c house. I want a stranger to clean my house.
ing. How, I thouglir, could he even look At any- like to clean! It makes her sad. Virginia and Lane look at Matilde.
one else. It would be absurd. Lane looks at Matilde. MAnLDh: It's all right. I'll go,
VIRGINIA: Wow. You really are—confident. LANK: Is that true? I'll pack my things.
LANE: I was blind. He didn't want a doctor. MATILDE: Yes. Good-bye Virginia.
He wanted a housewife. LANE (To Virginia): So—then—Why? Good luck finding a task.
A pause. VIRGINIA: I don't know. (She embraces Virginia}
Lane looks around the house. LANE: You looked through my rhings. Good-bye, doctor.
She sees the objects on the counter—a vjse. VIRGINIA: Not really. Good luck finding your busband.
some magazines, forcefully arranged. LANE: I find this—incomprehensible. She exits.
I ,'\NF (To Virginia): Have you been cleaning VIRGINIA: Can't I do a nice thing for you Lane and Virginia look at each other.
my house? without having a motived
Virginia and MatUde hok at each other. LANK: No. 14.Lane.
vmciNiA: No, I haven't been cleaning your V1RGINL\: That's— Then Matilde.
house. LANK: You have better things to do than LANL (To the audience): This is how I imag-
LANK: Those objects on the coffee table—that clean my house. ine my ex-husband and his new wife.
is how you arrange objects. VIRGINIA: Like what? The Man and Woman appear.
Virginia looks at the objects. LANE: 1— He undoes her gown.
viRtilNlA: I don't know what you mean. VIRGINIA: Like what? It might be a hospital gown or a hall gown.
IJVNF: Matilde—has Virginia been cleaning the LANE: I don't know. LANK: My husband undoes her gown.
house? VIRGINIA: No, you don't know. He is very gentle.
V1I«;1N|A: I said no. 1 wake up in the morning, and I wish that I He kisses her right breast.
LANE: I asked Matilde. could sleep through che whole day because (The Man kisses the Woman's right breast)
Has Virginia been cleaning the house? it is too painful, but there I am, I'm awake. He kisses the side of it.
MATILDK: Yes. So I get out of bed. I make eggs for my hus- He kisses the shadow.
LANE: For how long? band. I throw the eggshells in the disposal, I He kisses her left torso.
MATILDE: Two weeks. listen to the sound of delicate eggshells being (He kisses her left torso)
LANE: You're fired. ground by an indelicate machine. I clean He kisses the scar,
(A pause) the sink. I sweep the floor. I wipe coffee (He kisses the scar)
You're both fired. grounds from the counter. the one he made.
VIRGINIA: You can't do chat. I might have done something different with It's a good scar.
This is my fault. my life. I might have been a scholar. I might He's a good surgeon.
LANE: I'm paying her to clean my house! have described one particular ruin with the He kisses her mouth.
VIRGINIA: And your house is clean! cold-blooded poetry of which only a first-rate He kisses her forehead.
LANK: This has nothing to do with you, scholar is capable. Why didn't I? It's a sacred ritual, and
Virginia. I ANE: I don't know. I hare him.
VIRGINL\: This has everything to do with me. VIRGINIA: I wanted something—big. I didn'c Matilde enters with her suitcase.
LANE: Matilde—do you have enough money know how to ask for it. The lovers remain.
saved for a plane ticket back home? Don't blame Matilde. Blame me. I wanted— They continue to kiss one another
MATILDE: No. a task. on different body parts, a ritual.
LANE: You can stay one more week. I will buy L,\NE: I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. MATILDE: Is there anything else before I go?
you a plane ticket. Except: LANE: No. Thank you.
VIRUNLV; Lane. Your husband left you today. (To Matilde) MATILDE: Who are they?
LANE: I'm aware of that. you're fired. LANE; My husband and his patient. Don't
VIRGINIA: You're not capable of making a V!RGIN7A: It's not her fault! You can't do this. worry. It's only my imagination.
rational decision. I ANE (To Virginia): What would you like MATU-DE: They look happy.
l^NE: I'm always capable of making a rational me to do? I.ANH: Yes.
decision! VIRGINIA: Let me...take care of you. M.\T1LDE: People imagine that people who
MAili i)K: You don't need to buy me a plane LANE: I don't need to be taken care of. are in love are happy.
ticket. I'm moving to New York, to become VIRGINIA: Everybody needs Co be taken care of. LANE: Yes.
a comedian. I only need a bus ticket. l.ANi: Virginia. I'm all grown up, I DO NOT MAITLDK: That is why, in your country, people
VIRGINIA (To Lane): You can't do this! WANT TO BE TAKEN CARE OE kill themselves on Valentine's Day.
LANE: I will not have you cleaning my house, \'IRGINIA: WHY NOT? LANE: Yes.
just because che maid is depressed— LANK: I don'c want my sister co clean my : Love isn't clean like that. It's dirty.

N o V 11 L R 2 0 (J 4 A M E R I C A N T LI I AT S I
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

Matilde {Zilah Mendoza), Lane (Elizabeth Norment) and Virginia (Laurie Kennedy).

like a good joke. Do you wane ro hear a joke? And—rhere's a woman wirh him. C:HARLt:S I'mPORMS SllRGFRY ON THl WOMAN
I ANK: Sure. LANK: In the house? H t LOVHS.
Matilde tells a joke in Portuguese. VIRGINIA: Yes. Charles takes out surgical equipment.
LANt: Is that the end? LANE: Whar does she look like? He does surgery on Ana.
MATll.ni-: Yes. Is she pretty? It is an act of love.
l.ANt;; Was it funny? VIR(-1NL\: N o . If the actor who plays Charles ts a good singer,
MATll.DE: Yes. It's nor funny in translation. (With a sense of apology) She's heautiful. it would be nice if he could sing
LANE; I suppose I should laugh then. LANE: O h . an ethereal medieval tore song in Latin
MATllDK: Yes. CHARLLS (From offstage): Lane? about being medically cured by love.
Lane tries to laugh. The women look at each other. He sings acapelta as he does the surgery.
She cries. If the actress who plays Ana is a good singer,
MATii-Di.: You're crying. it would be tiice if she recovered from the
LANF,; N o , I'm nor. ACT TWO surgery and slowly sat up and sang a con-
MATlLin : I think rhat you're crying. trapuntal melody.
LANL: Well—yes. 1 think I am. The white living room has become a hospital. When the surgery is over,
Lane cries. Or the idea of a hospital. Charles takes off Ana's sheet.
She laughs. There is a balcony above the white living room. Underneath the sheet,
She cries. The Man has become Charles. she is dressed in a lovely dress.
And this goes on for some time. The Woman has become Ana. They kiss.
Virginia enters.
ViRMNlA: Charles is at the door. 1. Charles performs 2. Ana
LANE: What? surgery on the woman Ana, to the audience.
ViR(ilNL-\: Charles. In the hall. he loves. ANA: I have avoided docrors my whole life.
MATILDL; Oh... Ana lies under a sheet. I don't like how rhey smell. I don'r like how
LANE: You let him in? Beautiful music. they talk. I don't admire their emorionai
VIRGINIA: What could 1 do? A subtitle flashes: lives. I don't like how rhey walk. They walk

6S A M E R I C A N T II L A r R E N u V L VI B 1. R 2 I) (1 4
T H E C L E A N H O U S E S A R A H R U H L

very fast to ger somewhere—tac tac rac—I am .•\NA: If you think I'm going to cry, I'm not CHARLFS: Lane?
walking somewhere itnportant. 1 don'r like going to cry. LANK: Charles.
that. I like a man who saunters. Like this. CHARI.KS: It's normal to cry— (HARLr^s: Lane. I want us all to know each otJien
(Ana saunters across the stage like a man) ANA: I don't cry when I'm supposed to cry. I want to do things right, from the beginning.
But with Charles, it was like: BLAM! Are you going to cut it off? Lane: this is ,\na. Ana, this is my wife. Lane.
My mind was going: you're a doctoi; I hiite you. CHARI F.S: You must need some time—to ANA: Nice to meet you. I've heard wonderful
But the rest ai me was gone, walking out the digest— things about you. I've heard that you are a
door, with him. .-\NA: No. I don't need time. Tell me everything. wonderful doctor.
When he performed surgery on me, we were CHARLES: You have a variety of options. l_ANt:: Thank you.
already in love. Many women don't opt for a mastectomy. A Ana holds out her hand to Lane.
I was under general anesthetic but I could sense lumpectomy and radiation can be just as Lane looks around in dishelief.
him there. effective as— Then Lane shakes Ana's hand.
I think he put something extra in—during the ANA: I want you to cut it off. CHARLFS: This is my sister-in-law, Virginia.
surgery. CHARLFLS: YOU might want to talk with family ANA: Hello.
Into the missing place. members—with a husband — are you VIRGINIA: How do you do.
There are stories of surgeons who leave married?—or with— MATliOK: You look like my mother.
things inside the body by mistake: ANA: Tomorrow. L\Nt: This is the maid. Matilde. I fired her this
rubber gloves, sponges, clamps— CHARLFS: Tomorrow? morning.
But—you know—I think Charles left his ANA: Tomorrow. ANA: Encantada, Matilde. (Nice to meet you,
soul inside me. I:;HARI.!-:S: I'm not sure I have any appointments Matilde}
Into the missing place. open tomorrow— MATILDE: Encantada. Sou do Brasil. (Nice
She touches her left breast. ANA: I'd like you ro do it tomorrow. to meet you. I'm from Brazil)
CHARM'S: Then we'll do it tomorrow. ANA: Eu falo um pouco de portugues, mas que
3. Charles They look at each other. eu falo, falo mal. (I know a little bit of Por-
Charles, to the audience. They fall in love. tuguese, but it's bad)
CHARULS: There are jokes about breast surgeons. ANA: Then I'll see you tomorrow, at the MATll.nt:: Eh! boa tentativa! 'ta chegando la!
You know—something like—I've seen more surgery. Es usted de Argentina? (Ah! Good try! Not
breasts in this city than— CHARLES: Good-bye, Ana. bad. You're from Argentina?)
I don't know the punch line. ANA: Good-bye. ANA: ;G6mo lo sabe? (Hoiv did you knowf)
There must be a punch line. They look at each other. MATILDK (Imitating Ana's accent): ;C6mo
A pause. They fall in love some more. lo sabe? (How did yoti know)
a IARI.F..S: I've been faithful to my wife. We fell She turns to go. She turns back. They laugh.
in love when we were twenty-two. We had AXA: Am I going to die? I-ANf: We've all met. You can leave now,
plans. There was justice in the world. There t HARl.h:s: No. You're not going to die. Charles.
was justice in love. If a person was good I won't let you die. CHARLES: What happened to your wrist?
enough, an equally good person would fall They fall in love completely. 1ANF: Can opener.
in love with that person. They kiss wildly. C:HARLF.S: Oh.
And then I met—Ana. CHARLtS: What's happening? Charles examines the bandage on Lane's
Justice had nothing to do with it. ANA: I don't know. wrist.
Tliere once was a very great American surgeon CIIARLF.S: This doesn't happen to me. She pulls her hand away.
tumed Haisted. He was married to a nurse. He ANA: Me neither. MATiLDF: ^Ha usted estado alguna vez en
loved her—immeasurably. One day Haisted C:HARLKS: Ana, Ana, Ana, Ana...your name Brasil? (Have you ever been to Brazil?}
noticed that his wife's hands were chapped and goes backwards and forwards...I love ANA: Una vez, para estudiar rocas. (Once to
red when she came back from surgery. And so you... study rocks)
he invented rubber gloves. For her. It is one of ANA: And I love you. MATTl OF: R o c a s ?
the grear love stories in medicine. The differ- Take off your white coat. Matilde doesn't recognize the word "rocks"
ence between inspired medicine and unin- They kiss. in Spanish.
spired medicine is love. ANA: Si, rocas.
When 1 met Ana, I knew: I loved her to the 5. Lane, Virginia, Matilde, MATILDE: Ab, rochas! (Ah, rocks! In Por-
point of invention. Charles and Ana tuguese, pronounced "hochas ")
We are hack in the white liifing rootn. ANA: Si!
4. Charles and Ana We are deposited at the end of the last scene They laugh.
CHARI-ES: I'm afraid that you have breast from Act 1. viRt.lNiA: Should we sit down?
cancer. Charles is at the door, with Ana. They alt sit dotcn.

N o V i: Z 0 i) 4 A M E R I C A N T II r A r H 69
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

1ANF: Virginia—could you get us something .\NA: TTiere is a niidrash that says when a baby LANE: Yes.
ro drink. is fort>' days old, inside the mother's stomach, ANA: Then we'll hire her to clean our house.
VIRGINIA: What would you like? God pick^ out its soul mate, and people I hate to clean. And Charles likes things to he
MATiiDi-: I would like a coffee. have to spend the rest of their lives running clean. At least I think he does. Charles? Do
.•\NA: That sounds nice. I'll have coffee too. around to find each other. you like things to be clean?
VIRGINIA: Charles? MATILDE: So you are Jewish? CFiARLES: Sure. I like things to be clean.
(.HARl.hS: Nothing for me, thanks. ANA: Yes. ANA; Matilde? Would you like to work for us?
viHt.iNiA: Lane? MATILDK: A h ! MAI'II.DF: There is something you should
lANF: I would like some hard alcohol in a glass CHARLES: Lane. Something very objective know. I don't like to clean so much.
with ice. Thank you. happened to me. It's as though I suddenly tested ANA: Of course you don't. Do you have any
Virginia exits. positive for a genetic disease that I've had all other skills?
IAN!': So. along. Ana has been in my genetic code. \L\riLI)F: I can tell jokes.
11 !ARi IS: Lane. I know this is unorthodox. But ANA: Yes. It is strange. We didn't feel guilty ANA: Perfect. She's coming to live with us.
I want us to know each other. because it was so objective. And yet both of I AN!: My God! You can't just walk into my
ANA: You are very generous to have me in your us are moral people. I don't know Charles home and take everything away from me.
home. very well but I think he is moral hut to tell you ANA: 1 thought you fired this young woman.
I ANh: Not at all. the truth even if he were immoral I would love I ANF: Yes. I did.
ANA: Yes, you are very generous. I wanted ro him because the love 1 feel for your husband ANA: Have you changed your mind?
meet you. 1 am not a home wrecker. The last is so overpowering. 1 ANI: I don't know. Maybe.
time I fell in liwe it was with my husband, a I ANK: And this is what you've come to tell ANA: Matilde, do you have a place to live?
long time ago. He was a geologist and a me. That you're both innocent according to MATILOE: No.
very wild man, an alcnhoiic. But so iun\ So Jewish law. ANA: So she'll come live with us.
crazy! He peed on lawns and did everything ANAand t:UARl.i:s: Yes. V1R{.,INL\: Matilde is like family.
bad and I loved it. But I did not want to have Virginia enters with the drinks. MATlLDF,: What?
children with him because he was too wild, MAI II ni-: Thank you. ViR(;[NiA; Matilde is like a sister to me.
too crazy. I said, you have to stop drinking ANA: Thank you. ANA: Is this true?
and then he did stop drinking and then he died Lane takes the glass from Virginia. MATILDF: I don't know. 1 never had a sister.
of cancer when he was thirty-one. She downs it in one gulp. \'IIU,IN'IA: We clean together. We talk, and fold
(hAatildc murmurs with sympathy) LANF (To Virginia): Charles has come to tell laundry, as women used to do. They would
My heart was broken and I said to myself: I me that according to Jewish law, he has gather at the public fountains and wash their
will never love again. And I didn't. I thought found his soul mate, and so our marriage is clothes and tell stories. Now we are alone in
I was going to meet my husband—eventually— dissolved. He doesn't even need to feel guiltj'. our separate houses and it is terrible.
in some kind of afterlife with fabulous rocks. How about that. ANA: So it is Virginia who wants you to stay.
Blue and green rocks. And then I met Charles. \'iiU.iNiA: You have found your bashert. Not Lane.
When Charles said he was married I said LANF: How the hell do you know about a LANF: We both want her to stay. We love
C'harles we should stop but then Charles (?ashcrt^ Matilde. (An attempt at the Brazilian pro-
referred to Jewish law and I had to say that viRt.iNiA: I heard it on public radio. nunciation of Matilde)
I agreed and that was that. I wanted you to i.ilAiu vs: I'm sorry that it happened to you, ANA: Matilde?
understand. Lane. It could just as well have happened the MATiLDK: I am confused.
I ANI: Well, I don't understand. What about other way. You might have met your bashert, I ANT: I depend on Matilde, 1 couldn't stand
Jewish law. and 1 would have been forced to make way. to replace her. Matilde—^are you unhappy here
( HARLKS: In Jewish law you are legally obli- There are things—big invisible things—that with us?
gated to break off relations with your wife come unannounced—they walk in, and we MAI II I)F: I —
or husband if you find what is called your have to give way. I would even congratulate LANL: Is it the money? You could have a raise.
basbert. you. Because I have always loved you. ANA: Matiide—you should do as you wish. My
ANA: Your soul mate. I ANF: Well. Congratulations. house is easy to clean. I own hardly anything.
CHARLLS: You are obligated ia do this. Legally A silence. A cold one. I own one table, two chairs, a bed, one
bound. There's something—metaphysically— MAni-DF: Would anyone like to hear a joke? painting and I have a little fish whose water
objective about it. ANA: I would. needs to be changed. I don't have rugs so there
lANh: YouVe not Jewish. Matilde tells a short joke in Portuguese. is no vacuuming. But you would have to do
uiARl.ls: I know. But 1 heard about the Ana laughs. No one else laughs. Charles' laundry. I wil! not he his washer-
bashert—<in a radio program. And it always ANA: iQue bueno! jQue chiste mas bueno! woman.
stuck with me. When I saw Ana I knew that (What a good lake!) viRciN'iA: Excuse me. But I think that people
was it. I knew she was my bashert. (To Lane) You are firing Matilde? who are in love—really in love—would like to
60 A M 1- R r c A N T H E A T R E N o V t M 2 0 II 4
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

clean up after each other. It I were in love with VIRC;INIA: I'll stay. The sea is also Lane's living room.
Charles I would enjoy folding his laundry. Ami, Matilde and Charles exit. Lane sees the apples fall into her living room.
Lane looks at Virginia. LAME: I want to be alone. She looks at them.
ANA: Matilde—what do you think? Would you VIRGINIA: No. you don't. MA'ni.DE: I made up a new joke today.
like to work for us? LANE: Yes, I do. ANA: Ah! Bueno!
VIRGINIA: Please don't leave us, Matilde. VIRGINIA: No, you don't. MATaHE: I made up eighty-four new ones since
MATiu:)K: I will split my time. Half with Lane Lane sits on the couch. I started working for you. I only made up one
and Virginia, half with Ana and Charles. Virginia pats her shoulder. at the other house. It was a good one though.
How is that? \1R(;IN1A: Do you want—I don't know—a hot Sometimes you have to suffer for the really
ANA: Lane? water bottle? good ones.
LANE: Matilde is a free agent. LANE: No, I don't want a hot water bottle, ANA: Why don't you tell jokes for a job?
ANA: Of course she is. Virginia. M.-MiLnK: Some day.
CHARll'S: Well. V1R(,IN1A: I just thought— Matilde throws an apple core into the living
That's settled. LANE: —That I'm nine years old with a cold? room.
LANE: Are you leaving now? viRC^lNiA: I don't know what else to do. ANA: Why some day? Why not now?
CHARI.KS: Do you want me to leave? A pause. MATlLDE: I'm looking for the perfect joke. But
A pause. I ANE: You know, actually, 1 think I'd like one. I am afraid if I found it, it would kill me.
LANE: Yes. Ir sounds nice. ANA: Why?
CHARLES: Okay. Then we'll leave. MATILDE: My mother died laughing.
Ana and 1 are going apple picking this after- 6. Ana and MatJIde. ANA: I'm sorry.
noon. Then Charles. MATILDE: Thank you.
She's never been apple picking. Aiui and KLitilde are up on Ana's balcony. She was laughing at one of my father's jokes.
Would anyone like to join us? It is high above the white living room. ANA: What was the joke?
MAIILDE: I've never been apple picking It is a small perch, oi/erlooking the sea. MATIlDt: I'll never know. Let's not talk about
CHARLKS: So Matilde will come. Virginia? Through French doors, one can enter or exit sad things-
viRt;iNlA: I love apple picking. the balcony. Matilde finds a really really good apple.
LANL: Virginia! A room leading to the balcony is suggested MATILDE: Try this one.
CHARLKS: Lane? but unseen. Ana tries it.
LANE: You must be insane! Apple picking! Matilde and Ana wear sungLtsses and sun hats. ANA: Mmmm. Perfeito.
My god! I'M SORRY! But—.lpple picking? They are surrounded by apples. CHARLES (From offstage): Ana!
This is not a foreign film! We don't have an They look around at alt of the apples. ANA: We're on the balcony!
arrangementl You don't even tike foreign Underneath the balcony. Charles rushes in wearmg scrubs and
films! Maybe you'll pretend to like foreign Lane is in her living room. carrying an enormous bouquet of flowers.
films, for Ana, but 1 can tell you now Ana, She lies down with a hot water bottle. He goes to Ana and kisses her all over
he doesn't hke them! He doesn't like reading Ana polishes an apple. and continues to kiss her all over.
the little subtitles! It gives him a headache! ANA: We're never going to eat all of these ANA: My love!
c:i IARLILS: Lane. I don't expect you to—under- damn apples. We were just eating apples.
stand this—immediately. But since this thing— MA1 ii HE: But it's nice to have so many. c HARl i;s: Aren't they delicious?
b;)s happened to me—I want to live life to the So many that it's crazy to have so many. ANAi Here is the very best one.
fullest. I know—what it must sound like. Because you can never eat them all. Charles takes a bite of the best apple.
But it's different. I want to go apple picking. ANA: Yes. CHARLES: Divine!
I want to go to Machu I'icchu. You can he part Ana picks out an apple and eats it. Excuse me, Matilde.
of tliat. I want to sliare my happiness with you. MAI II HE: I like the green ones. I need to borrow this woman.
LANE: I don't want your happiness. Which ones do you like? He kisses Ana.
MATH 1))- (To Ana): Es como una telenovela. ANA: The yellow ones. They're sweeter. He picks up Ana and carries her off into the
Tan triste. (It's like a soap opera. So sad) M.ATiLDE: We could take one bite of each bedroom.
CHARLES; Lane—I— and if it's not a really, really good apple we MATILDE: Have fun.
LANE: What. can throw it into the sea. ANA and ( MAiUES: Thank you! We will!
CHARU-,S: I hojJe chat you'll forgive me one day. ANA: Now you're talking like a North American. They exit.
I.ANE: Go pick some apples. MATH DE: It will be fun. Matilde takes a bite of an apple and throws
Good-bye. ANA: Okay. it into the sea.
cn.-\RLEb: Good-bye. They start taking bites of each apple She looks into the sea.
ANA: Good-bye. and if they dofi't think it's a perfect apple they A subtitle projects:
: Good-bye. throw it into the sea. MATILDE TRIES TO TEIINK UP THE PERFECT JOKE.

N o V !• M Z 004 A M I- H I ( .^ N T (I II .\ I H 01
THE CLEAN H O U S E SARAH RUHL

She looks out at the sea. She says it's poison. Now, colors.
She thinks. He says: ANA: Okay.
She shakes her head. Vrom the balcony: CHARLES: I'll start.
CHARl ES: You have to go to the hospital! ANA: Red.
7. Matilde, Virginia MA'ULDK: And she says: CHARl I'S: No.
and Lane. ANA: I won't go to the hospital! A\A: Blue.
Ttfo ivceks later. MATH nr: Then they really fight. CHARl IS: No.
Virginia is cleaning. It's like a soap opera. ANA: I give up.
Lane shuffles cards. Charles yells and throws things at the wall. CHARl KS: Purple. We have to concentrate
I .\N!- (Shouting to Matilde who is offstage): 1ANE: Charles never yells. harder. Like tbis. Ready? You go.
Matilde! Your denl. MATILHH: Oh. he yells. ANA: I'm tired.
Matilde leaves the balcony. And Ana yells and throws things at him. CHARl V.s: I'm sorry. I'll stop.
\IH(.!NIA: Lane—your couch is filthy. They broke all the condiments and spices Charles rubs Ana's head.
WoLjIdn'r it be nice to have a tresh, clean yesterday. ANA: Why all these guessing games?
slipcover? I could sew you one. There was this yellow spice— CHARLES: You know Houdini?
l.AN'K: That would be nice. It would give you and It got in tbcir hair and on their faces ANA: The magician?
a project. until they were all yellow. CHARMS: Yes. Houdini and his wife practiced
Matilde enters. From the balcony: reading each other's minds. So that—if one
I ANt: Your deal. ANA: I don't want a doctor! of tbem died—they'd be able ro talk to each
Matilde sits. I want a man! other—you know, after.
Above them, on the balcony. A spice jar goes flying. ANA: Did it work?
Ana and Charles dance a slow dance. A cloud of yellow spice lands in Lane's living CHARl.i:s: No.
1 A.Nt: So. room. ANA: Oh.
Are you happy there.^ Ac the other house? ANA: N O HOSPITALS! CHARLES: But 1 love you more than Houdini
MATH DH: Yes. I AN!-: She won't go to the hospital? loved his wife. He was distracted—by his
[.•\NK; What's her house like? MAIII W:. No. magic. I'm not distracted. Ana. Let's go to the
MATILDE: It's little. She has a balcony that I might have to spend more time—you hospital.
overlooks the sea. k n o w ^ a t the other house. ANA: I told you.
IANI.; What's her furniture like? To help. No hospitals!
MATIl.ni: A table from one place—a chair VlRtilNlA: Poor Charles. Charles yells an incomprehensible animal
from another place. It doesn't go together. I .\NH: Poor Charles? yell.
But it's nice, Poor Ana. ANA: Don't be sad, Charles.
LANE: What does she cook? Po<)r me! CHARLES: Don't be sad! My God!
MATll.l>l: I'm not a spy! Poor sounds funny if you say it lots of times ANA: I can't take this.
LAN!-.: I'm sorry. in a row: poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, I'm going for a swim.
They play cards. poor—doesn't it sound funny? Matiide!
On the balcony. VIKCINIA: Lane? Are you all right? Come look after Charles.
Charles and Ana finish their dance. 1 ANh: Oh, me? I'm fine. I'm going swimming.
They exit, into the bedroom. Ana exits.
Lane puts down a card. 8. Ana and Charles. Charles hoks out over the balcony,
I ANt: Do they seem like they are very much Then Matilde. watching Ana run out to the water.
in love? A>ta and Charles sit on the balcony. CHARLES (To Ana): Ana! Think of a country
MAlll.lil:: Yes—they are very in love. Ana is dressed in a bathrobe. under the water! I'll guess it from the balcony!
lANt: How can you—tell? Ana and Charles try to read one another's MATH ViV: She can't hear you.
MATK.DE: They stay in bed half the day. mind. Charles disrobes to his underwear.
Charles doesn't go to work. He cancels half Belong the balcony, in the living room. He throws his clothes into Lane's living room.
bis patients. He wants to spend all his time Lane and Virginia fold laundry together. CHARl IS: Excuse me, Matilde. I'm going for
with Ana. CHARlFi: Eight. a swim.
I ANi:: Oh. ANA; No, seven. You were very close. MAriLOL: I thought you can't swim.
A pause. t:HARM;s: I'll go again. CHARLFS: I'll learn to swim.
MATii.Di.: Because Ana is dying again. ANA: Okay. Underneath the balcony, in Lane's living
LANF: What? CHARLES: Four. room.
MATII.DI-: Her disease came back. ANA: Yes! Lane comes across Charles's sweater.
She says she won't take any medicine. CHARLES: I knew it! I could see four apples. She breathes it in.
6 2 A M I B I C A N T H E A I R L N O V !L M B I- ft 2 (1 U 4
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

She weeps.
Charles leans over the balcony.
CHAR1.LS: Ana! Whar's the countiT? I think it's
a very small country! Is it Luxembourg?
An.i!
He rims off.
Matilde looks out over tbe water.
She is not trying to think of the perfect joke.
She thinks of the sea.
Sublime music.
Suddenly, with great clarity,
Matildc thinks up the perfect joke.
It hits her physically, an unexpected gift.
A Pause.
MATH W.: My God. It's the perfect joke.

9. Lane, Virginia.
Then Matilde.
Lane sits with Charles's underwear in her
hands.
Virginia enters, vacuuming.
l.ANL: Stop it!
VIRGINIA: What?
LAN!-: Stop cleaning!
viRc;[NiA: Why?
I ANE (Over the vacinmt}: I DON'T WANT
ANYTHING IN MY HOUSE TO BE GLE,\N
EVER AGAIN! I WANT THERE TO BE
DIRT AND PIGS IN THE CORNER MAYBE
SOME COW MANURE SOME BIG DIRTY
SHITTY COWS ,\ND SOME SHITTY COW-
SHIT LOTS OE IT AND LOTS OE DIRTY
ElICKING SOCKS—AND NONE OF
THEM MATCH—NONE OF THEM—
BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT—THAT
IS HOW I FEEL.
[Lane unplugs the vacuum)
VllU.INIA: Wow. I'm sorry. Matilde (Zilah Mendoza), above, and Lane (Elizabeth Norment).
I ANh: AND YOU KNOW WHAT? I WILL
NOT LET MY HOUSE BE A BREEDING 1 AN'l-: Yes. 1 see people with real problems all [.AN'E: \IRGIN1A:
GROUND FOR YOUR WEIRD OBSES- day long. At the hospital. I do so have Ana is a woman
SIVE DIRT FETISH. I WILL NOT PER- \'nu.lNIA; I think—there's a small part of me— compassion. with compassion.
MIT YOU TO FEEL LIKE A BETTER that's enjoyed watching your life fall apart. 1 do so have
PERSON JUST BECAUSE YOU PUSH DIRT To see you lose your composure. For once. compassion!
AROUND ALL DAY ON MY BEHALF. 1 thought—we can be sisters. Real viiu;iN!A: Really. How so.
vim.iNiA: I was just trying to help. sisters who tell each other real things. But IANF: I work all day to help other people! I
IANI-: Well, it's not helping. I was wrong. Well, fine. I'm not picking traded my own lil-e., my own pleasure in this
VIR(-INIA: I wonder—when itwas—thnt you up your dry cleaning anymore. I'm going to world, to help people who are sick! What do
became—such a bitch? Oh, yes, I remem- get a job. you do?
ber. Since the day you were bom, you thought LANh: What job? Virginia and Lane breathe,
rhat anyone with a problem had a defect of VIRGINIA: Any job! Matilde enters.
the will. Wt'll, you know what? You're wrong 1 ANi:: What are you qualified to dt) at this point? Virginia and Lane are in a state of silent
about rhat. Some people have problems, real VIRGINIA: No wonder Charles left. You have animal warfare,
problems— no compassion. a brand of warfare particular to sisters.
N o V I M h L Ii 2 (I H 4 A M K R I t; A N 1 n L A I R 03
T H E C L E A N H O U S E S A R A H R U H L

MAI II 1)1: Hello. VIRCINIA: What? 10.Lane makes


I.ANi-,: I'm going to splash some water on MAlllDL: He says if she won't go to the hos- a house call to her
my face. pital, he will bring the hospital to her. He is husband's soul mate.
Lane exits. going to cut down a special tree. A "you" tree. On A)ia's balcony.
MAI ll.Di-: What's wrong with her? He called it a you tree. Lane listens to Ana's heart with a stethoscope.
VIRGINIA: Nothing. Matitde points: you. LANE: Breathe in.
On the balcony. Ana puts on a record. VIRG1NL\: A you tree? Breathe in again.
Ana listens to opera on the balcony, looking MATH.DP: A you tree. He says he's going to Lane takes off her stettwscope.
out over the sea. invent a new "you medicine." IANT: Are you having any trouble breathing?
Virginia dumps a plant on the ground and the VIRGINIA: My God. He's gone crazy with ANA: No. Rut sometimes it hurts when I
dirt spills onto the floor, love! breathe.
Virginia enjoys herself, maki?ig a giant oper- LANE: He's not crazy. It's a yew tree. Y-E-W. LANE: Where?
atic nii'ss in the lilting room. (Spelling it out) A Pacific yew tree. The hark ANA: Here.
She throws pillows on the floor. was made into Taxol in 1967. The compound lANi: Do you have pain when you're not
She throws books on the floor. prevents microtubules from decomposing. breathing?
Matitde watches. Cancer cells become so clogged with micro- ANA: Yes.
MAI II i)i: What are you doing? tubules that they are slower to grow and I.ANI-.: Where?
Virginia? divide. ANA: In my spine.
viK(,iNiA: I'M MAKING A MESS! MATH l>h: He said it was a special tree. lANL: Is the pain shatp, or dull?
Virginia finishes making her operatic mess. LANE: Yes. It is a special tree. ANA: Sharp.
The aria ends. MATILDE: He wants to planr it in the middle L.\Nt: Does it radiate?
Ana leaves the balcony. of Ana's courtyard. ANA: Like light?
M.ATILDL (To Virginia): You are okay? So she can smell the tree, while she's on her LANL: I mean—does it move? Does it move
VIRGINIA: Actually. I feel fabulous. balcony. from one place to another?
M.itilde sits down. VIRGINIA: That's beautiful. ANA: Yes. From here to there.
Matilde puts her head in her arms. I ANT: It's not beautiful, Virgmia. There is a lANE: How's your appetite?
Lane enters. woman dying, alone, while Charles chops ANA: Not great.
L.\Nt:; What the hell happened here? down a fucking tree. You must hate me.
viRCiiNiA: I was mad. How heroic. LANE: Look—I'm being a doctor tight now.
Lane looks at the living room. VIRGINIA: Does she need a doctor? That's all.
She looks at Matitde. MATILDE: Yes. She needs a doctor. Lane palpates Ana's spine.
Matitde continues to bury her head in her But she won't go to the hospital. I.ANI:: Does that hurt?
arms. So I thought 1 would ask. ANA: It hurts already.
I A\i-: What's wrong with her? Do you know any doctors who go to the LANE: I can't know anything without doing
Virginia sl?rugs. house? tests.
LANE: Matilde? VIRGINIA: You mean house calls? ANA: I know.
MATiinF: It's a mess. MATH OF: Yes, house calls. LANE: And you won't go to the hospital.
VIKUINIA: I'll clean it up. Virginia and Matilde look at Lane. ANA: No.
MATH nt: Not this. Ana. Charles. It's a mess. LANE: Why are you looking at me? LANE: AH right.
LAN!': Have they—fallen out of love? They continue to look at Lane. ANA: Do you think I'm crazy?
MATILDK: No. LANE: You want me to take care of my hus- LANL: No.
VIRGINIA: Is she very sick? band's soul mate. ANA: Well. Can I get you anything to drink?
MATILDK: Yes. VIRG1NL\: Look at her as a patient. Not a I have some iced tea.
LANIi: Oh. person. |j\NE: Sure. Thank you.
VIRGINU: How terrible. You can do that. Ana goes to get some iced tea.
VlAlll Dl-; Yes. I ANT: If she wanted to see a doctor, she'd go Lane looks over the balcony at the sea.
And now Charles has gone away. to the hospital. I am not gomg to her house. She starts weeping.
LANE; What? It would be totally inappropriate. Ana comes back with the iced tea.
MAlil i>r. (To Lane): To Alaska. They look at Lane. ANA: Lane?
\'iia;iNiA: What? Chartes watks stowty across the stage dressed LANE: Oh, God! I'm not going to cry in front
M\iii i)K (To Virginia): To Alaska. in an incredible parka and snow shoes. of you.
i ANK; But—why? He holds a map. ANA: It's okay You can cry. You must hate me.
MAHLUh: He says he's going to chop down a A great freezing wind. LANF: 1 don't hate you.
tree for Ana. ANA: Why are you crying?
A M !• R I ( A N T 11 K A r H i" N O V E .M B H K 2 0 0 4
THE CLEAN H O U S E SARAH R U H L

lANi:: Okay! I hate you! Lane takes a bite and stops. 12. Ana and Virginia.
You—glow—with some kind of—thing—I I AN!.: Did Charles pick this apple? Then Matilde.
c;in't acquire that—this—thing—sort of— ANA: I don't know who picked it. Then Lane.
glows oii you—like a veil—in reverse— Lane eats the apple. All of Ana's possessioiu have been moved into
you're \ike anyone's soul mate—because you 1 ANF: It's good. Lane's living room.
have rhat—thing—you have a bakony—I /)(the distance, Ana's fish is in a bowl on the coffee table.
don't have a balcony—Charles looks at Charles ivalks across the stage in a heavy There are bags of apples on tbe carpet.
you—he glows too—you're like two glow- parka. He carries a pickax. And two mismatched chairs.
worms—he never looked at me like that. In the living room, it is snowing. And luggage. With clothes spilling out of
ANA: Lane. a bag.
[.ANK: I looked at our wedding pictures to 11.Lane calls Virginia. Virginia is preparing a special tray of food for
see—maybe—he looked at me that way—back Lane and Virginia on the telephone. Ana.
then—and no—he didn't—he looked at me Meanwhile Matilde moves all of ANA: People talk about cancer like it's this
with admiration-—I didn't know there was Ana's possessions from the balcony to the special thing you have a relationship with.
another way to he looked ar—how couid I living room. And it becomes blood count, biopsy, chemo-
know—I didn't know his face was capable of I ANK: I saw Ana. therapy, radiation, bone marrow, blah blah
doing thai—the way he looked at you—in my VIRtilNIA: And? bbh blah blah blah blah. As long as I live 1
living room. LANE: She's coming to live with me. want to retain my own language.
Pause. VIRGINIA: What? Mientras tengo vida, qulero procurar mamener
ANA: I'm sorry. i.ANK: She can't be alone. She's too sick. 1 mi proprio idioma.
I AMI: No you're not. It you were really sorry, invited her. No extra hospital words. I don't want a
you wouldn't have done it. VIRGINIA: That's generous. I'm impressed. relationship with a disease. I want to have a
We do as we please, and then we say we're LANK: So will you be around—during the relationship with death. That's important. But
sorry. But we're not sorry. We're just— day—to help Matilde look after her? to have a relationship with a disease—that's
uncomfortable—watching other people in VIRCIINLA: Oh. me? No. I got a job. some kind of bourgeois invention. And I
pain. l.ANt: What? hate it.
A pause. V1RGINL\: I got a job. Virginia gives Ana the tray.
Ana hands Lane an iced tea. LANE: Doing what? ANA: Thank you.
l.ANh: Thank you. viRt.iNiA: I'm a checkout girl. At the grocery Ana eats a bite.
Lane drinks her iced tea. store. VIRGINIA: Do you like it?
They both look at a fish in a how!. LANL: You're not. ANA: It's delicious. What is it?
LANl'i What kind of tish is that? VIRGLNIA: I am. I had my first day. I liked it. viRCilNIA: It's a casserole. No one makes
ANA: A fighting fish. I liked using the cash register. I liked watch- casserole anymore. I thought it might be—
LANK: How old is it? ing the vegetables go by on the conveyer comforting.
ANA: Twelve. belt. Orange, red, green. My colleagues were ANA: What's in it?
1 ANK: That's old for a fish. nice. They didn't care whether or not I went \aRc;iNiA: Things you wouldn't want to know
ANA: I know. I keep expecting it to die. But to Bryn Mawr. They helped me if my receipts about.
it doesn't. got stuck in the machine. There was fellow ANA: Well, it's good. Thank you for taking care
Lane taps on the bowl. feeling amonp the workers. Solidarit)'. And of me, Virginia.
The fish wriggles. I liked it. Virginia's eyes fill with tears.
ANA: How did you and Charles fall in love? LANK: Wow. ANA: What's wrong?
i.ANi:: He didn't tell you? VIRGINIA: So, I'm sorry. But I'll be too busy to viluilNlA: I'm not used to people thanking me.
ANA: No. help you. Matilde enters, holding a telegram.
LANE: Oh. Well, we were m medical school Pause. She hands it to Ana.
together. We were anatomy partners. We LANE: Wait. You made that srory up. MAIILDL: There is a telegram. From Charles.
fell in love over a dead body. VIRGINIA: Fine. ANA: He sent a telegram}
They sit, looking at the fish. I ANK: So you'll help me. MATILDK: Yes.
They breathe. VIRGINIA: You want my help? In the distance, Charles appears
Lane forgives Ana. LANE: Yes. wearing a heavy parka.
Lane taps on the glass bowl. VIRGINIA: Are you sure? tiHARli^S: Dear Ana. Stop. I have cut down the
The fish wiggles around. LANE: Yes. tree. Stop. Cannot get on plane with tree. Stop.
ANA: Want an apple? vrRGlNL\: Say, I want your help. Must learn to fly plane. Stop. I love you. Stop.
l.ANH: Sure. LANK: I want your help. Wait for me. Stop. Your beloved, Charles.
Ana gives Lane an apple. VIRGINIA: Then I'll help you. He exits.

N o V i: M n t H 2 0 0 4 A M V S. I f A N T H !• :\ \ K I 66
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

ANA: Sometimes ice cream in this country


is so hard.
I ANK: I got it from a special store.
They alt eat ice cream.
\NA; Can you imagine a time before ice
cream? When they couldn't keep things
frozen? There was once a ship filled with
ice—it sailed from from Europe to South
America. The ice melted by the time it got to
South America. And the captain of the ship
was bankrupt. All he had to sell when he got
there was water.
\'IRt;iNlA: A ship full ot water.
M.vni DV: A ship full of water.
Lane finishes the container of ice cream.
No one cleans up.
AMA; I'm sleepy.
viiuiiNiA: You should sleep.
: ANK: I'll get a blanket.
Lane and Virginia exit.
Matilde moves to exit.
\NA: Matilde.
Matilde stays.
\NA: My bones hurt.
\lATIl.Dt: I know they do.
\NA: Do you know what it feels like when your
hones hurt?
MAHLDK: NO.
\NA: I hope you never know.
Matilde. You once told me that your father
killed your mother with a joke.
MAlll DK: Yes.
ANA: I would like you to kill me with a joke.
MATiLOE: I don't want to kill you.
1 like you.
ANA: If you like me. help me.
\1AH1 m.: What about Charles?
Will you wait ior him?
\N*A; No.
MAHIDK: Why?
Ana (Franca M. Sarchiesi) and Charles (Tom Bloom), foreground, with Lane (Elizabeth Norment). ANA: I would lose all my bravery.
MATll-DF-; 1 understand.
VIRGINIA: W o w . Matilde and Virginia exit. ANA: So you'll do it?
ANA: 1 want him to be a nurse and he wants Ana and Lane sit on the couch. A pause.
to be an explorer. Lane taps on the fish bowl. MATll.DE: Okay.
Asi es la vida. (That's life) LAN!: He made it all right. ANA: When?
Lane enters with a broiun paper bag. ANA: He's a strong fish. MATH Dt; When you want me to.
LANK: I brought some ice cream. Matilde and Virginia come hack with spoons. ANA: You don't need time to make up a joke?
ANA; Oh, good, I love ice cream. They all eat ice cream out of the same con- MATILDK: I made it up on your balcony.
LANK: Do you like chocolate? tainer. ANA: Tomorrow, then.
ANA: Who doesn't like chocolate. Crazy ANA: Mmmm! Amazing! MATILDE: Tomorrow.
people. MATILDK: It must be what God eats when he Lane enters with a blanket.
Vllu;iM.\: ril get some spoons. is tired. She hands it to Ana.
MATILOE: I'll help yOU. VIRGINIA; So soit. LANt: I hope it's warm enough.

OQ A M D R I C A N T H E A T R F N O V E M B E R 2 0 0 4
THE CLEAN HOUSE SARAH RUHL

ANA: Thank you. A subtitle projects: Lane nods.


(To Matiide) Good night. THE niNNiFST JOKE IN THE WORLD. Lane holds the tree against the balcony.
MATII.DK (TO Ana): Good night. Ana laughs and laughs. Charles goes to Ana.
Ana puts her head on the pillow, A7ia collapses. Charles weeps, a child.
closing her eyes. Matitde kneels heside her.
MATILDE (Whispering to Lane}: Are you Matiide wails. 14.Matiide
coming? MAiiiDh: O h h — Matiide, to the audience.
lANK: In A minute. Lane and Virginia rush in. MAI II DE: This is how I imagine my parents.
Matiide exits. Lane checks Ana's pulse. My mother is about to give birth to me.
Lane sits on the floor and watches Ami steep. The women look at one another. The hospital is too far away.
She guards her the icay a dog would guard viiiCiNiA: What do we do.^ My mother runs up a hill in December and
.1 rival dog. if her rival were sick. LANE: I don't know. says: Now!
VIRGINIA: You're the doctor! My mother is lying down under a tree.
13.Matiide tells Ana LANii: I've never seen someone die in a house My father is telling her a joke to try and keep
a joke. before. her calm.
The next day. Only in a hospital. Atm and Cfjarbs become Matilde's mother and
Lane. Virginia and Matiide are gathered Where they clean everything up. father.
around Ana. A pause. The Man whispers a joke in Portuguese to the
ANA: I want to say good-bye to everyone VIRGINIA: What do the nurses do? Woman.
before Matiide tells me a joke. MATii W: They close the eyes. MATILDE: My mother laughed. She laughed so
I ANK: Can't I give you anything for the pain? I ANEi That's right- hard that I popped out.
ANA: No. Lane closes Ana's eyes. My mother said I was the only baby who
I-ANI-: You're sure? '.: And they wash the body. laughed when 1 came into the world.
ANA: Yes. Good-bye, Lane. E: I'll wash her. She said I was laughing at my father's joke.
I ANE: Good-bye, Ana. Lajie goes to get a towel I laughed to take in the air.
They emhrace. and a bowl of water. 1 took in some air, and then I cried.
ANA: Take care of Charles. viRGiNL\: Should we say a prayer? They sang a song to make me stop crying.
LANK: You think I'll be taking care of him? MATllDE: You say a prayer, Virginia. It goes like this:
ANA: Of course. A prayer cleans the air the way water cleans The Man and Woman sing a fragfnent of a
1.ANI-.: Why? the dirt. lullaby in Portuguese to the haby.
ANA: You love him. VIRGINIA: Ana. I hope you are apple picking. MATlLDF: I think maybe heaven is a sea
Good-bye Virginia. Lane washes Ana. of untranslatable jokes. Only everyone is
Virginia iveeps. A knock at the door. laughing.
ANA: Don't cry. CHARIES (From offstage): Ana!
Thank you for taking care of me, Virginia. Charles pounds on the door. The End
Virginia iveeps. aiARUii: Ana! Ana!
ANA: See this? I can't tiike it. Matiide. Let's have The women look at one another.
the joke. Matiide ansifers the door.
MATILDH: Are you ready? Charles walks into the hall carrying an enor-
ANA: Yes. mous tree.
Everyone's always dying lying down. The tree reaches all the way up to the balcony.
I want to die standing up. Charles is sweating and breathi?ig.
Ana stands. He has carried his tree great distances.
ANA: The two of you had better leave the room. Lane goes to Charles.
I don't want you dying before your time. i.H.\|{| ES: I brought back this tree.
They nod. A pause.
They leave. CHARLES: It won't help?
ANA: Matiide. LANE; No.
Deseo el chiste ahora. (I want the joke now.) CHARLES: Can I see her?
The lights change. LANK: She's in there.
Music. (Pause)
Matiide tells a joke. Charles?
We don't hear it. Lane kisses Charles on the forehead.
We hear sublime music instead. ciiARiis: Thank you. Will you ht)ld my tree?

N o V i M li i; It 2 (I U 4 A M 1^ K 1 ( A T II 67

Related Interests