By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer on May 13, 2013, at 2:26 AM Updated on 5/13/13 at 5:36 AM
First of all, that the Nightingale Theater presents original, and often determinedly unconventional, theater in this town is worthy of praise. And the troupe’s inventiveness in creating or evoking the worlds in which these visions take place is often startlingly good.
“Clean,” the newest show at the Nightingale, is a collaborative piece created by the theater’s writing collective, 50 Swats.
Usually the shows presented under this moniker are made up of monologues and scenes, linked by a theme but individual and self-contained. “Clean,” however, is a bit different: a collection of inconclusive monologues and unresolved scenes that present a kind of fragmented picture of one woman’s tormented and tormenting memories.
“This is everything,” announces Mr. Clean (Mick Swiney), an official at the futuristic clinic to which a woman called Lucia (Angela Adams) has paid a great deal of money to have her mind wiped clean of its memories.
He also explains to Lucia that “nothing that you see or imagine is not you, whatever form it may take.” This allows for more people in the cast, for one thing, and also adds to the sense of dislocation as the. … story isn’t the right word, let’s call it “the quasi-narrative through-line … unravels like that strands and tangles of rough twine that get strewn around the stage as the intermission-less evening progresses.
The twine is Lucia’s memories made tangible, but it’s never clear if the process of bringing all these dark dreams to light makes anything better. And at times it’s difficult to tell if a scene is something experienced, something observed or something imagined by our patient.
Perhaps that is why the most directly personal scenes work the best, such as “Clean House, Wasted Life,” in which a preternaturally wise and understanding child (Lottie Cruncleton) serves as forgiving parent to her slattern of a mother (Sara Cruncleton); Jessica Holloway’s recounting of her parent’s volatile relationship in “Hole in the Wall”; Jeremy Sheldon’s paranoid rant in “Close”; Amy Page and Jason Watts (no relation) trading surreal euphemisms for arousal in “Sext”; Adams’ intensely told “Pig Farm Fire”; and the recitation of sexual abuse by Page and Joseph Gomez in “40-Plus Single.”
An episode about a 3-year-old child at a bowling alley is the basis of four episodes, elliptically told in studiously elevated terms that attempt to elevate the banal observation of bowling lane as metaphor for life’s second chances, always giving one the opportunity to knock everything down once again.
It’s best to approach “Clean” not as a play with a plot, but as the makings of a collage. How you put these disparate pieces together and whatever image or story or idea the results might produce – if any at all – is entirely up to you.
“Clean” continues with performances at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and May 24-25 at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St. Language and subject matter make it for mature audiences only. Tickets are available at the door.