The Drowsy Chaperone, a spoof of Broadway musicals from the 1920’s, is an homage to the golden era of theatre when people longed for nothing more than to be magically transported to another world. Although little more than a parody of stock characters singing a pastiche of songs from the period that steels boldly from later day musicals as well, the evening is served with such tremendous style and wit that the loving tribute actually stops time. We are allowed for a brief hour and 40 minutes to chase all the blues away and escape into the madness of the musical theatre world.The evening begins with the audience sitting in a pitch black theatre for a few moments before we hear the voice of our host, simply referred to as Man in Chair, saying “Dear Lord please let it be good.” We are then taken into the cluttered New York City apartment of this die hard musical theatre fan, where he sits stage right in an overstuffed easy chair next to his record player. Yes record player, no CDs for him, he loves the static from the needle saying, “To me that’s the sound of a time machine starting up.”
When Sara Ruhl’s play The Clean House begins we are confronted with a character in a spotlessly clean all white house telling a rather long and apparently very funny joke in Portuguese. There are no subtitles, but we know the joke is funny from the character’s demonstrative body language and the enjoyable relish with which she embellishes her tale.We soon learn that she is Matilde (Vanessa Aspillaga) the Brazilian maid of Lane (Blair Brown) a cleanliness obsessed workaholic doctor, who freely admits, “I did not go to medical school to clean my o
wn house,” and herein is one of the comedy’s central conflicts. Matilde soon confesses to us that she doesn’t like to clean; in fact cleaning makes her depressed, so much so that she would much prefer to spend her time discovering the world’s funniest joke.Virginia (Jill Clayburgh) Lane’s sister, who uses cleaning to make herself feel better insists that, “People who give up the privilege of cleaning their own houses are insane people,” and comes to Matide’s rescue by offering to clean her sister’s home for her. When Lane realizes to her horror that Virginia has been cleaning her house instead of Matilde, she fires the maid, but events turn even bleaker when the three discover Charles (John Dossett), Lane’s surgeon husband, is having an affair with Ana (Concetta Tomei) his 67 year old breast cancer patient, who the surgeon believes to be his soul mate.