By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer on May 9, 2013, at 2:03 AM Updated on 5/09/13 at 3:05 AM
It took a lot more effort than usual for the Midwestern Theater Troupe to get “Clean.”
“Clean,” which opens Friday, is the latest product from the writing ensemble known as 50 Swats.
In years past this collective has created shows of original dramatic monologues all connected by a theme – from the pains and joys of being human to off-center looks at the Christmas holidays.
And that was what the company thought it was doing when work began on the current show.
“One of the things we try to emphasize in the group is to focus on self-contained, fully realized pieces,” said John Cruncleton, one of the writers and the director of “Clean.” “We want the language to be active, we want the pieces to have a beginning, middle and end.
“But this time, for some reason, when everything began coming in, we ended up with a lot of very fragmented material,” he said. “There was a lot of really honest, almost confessional stuff in these pieces, but they didn’t have a real dramatic structure.”
However, closer reading of the dozens of pieces submitted – nine writers contributed to the project, all working in isolation from the others – revealed a number of unplanned, startling connections among them.
“That helped us realize a way that we could bring these pieces together and be able to turn that fragmentary quality into an asset,” Cruncleton said.
Thus, “Clean,” in which the various monologues – none longer than seven minutes – represent the mental degeneration of a woman whose memory is fading away.
In the course of treatment to wipe her mind clean, shards of memory come to life, revealing some dark and at times disturbing events from the past.
“There were some pieces that were really hard-hitting, and we’d ask the women in the group if something was too much,” Cruncleton said. “It’s one thing to present challenging material, but you also don’t want to reach the point where the audience just shuts it out because it’s too much to deal with.”
The cast for “Clean” features 12 actors, and the show will incorporate original music performed on-stage.
“The music has been, for me, a lot of fun to work on, in part because it helps in the transitions between the various scenes,” Cruncleton said. “And this whole show, in a way, comes down to transitions – how all these different parts flow together.”
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 17- 18 and 24-25
Where: Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.