Finally, a theater in the area is staging The Clean House, Sarah Ruhl's much-praised comedy-drama about a busy doctor whose Brazilian maid is too depressed to clean the house. "Everybody is very enthusiastic about it,'' said Jerry Finn, executive director of Banyan Theater Company, which is presenting the play as part of its summer season in Sarasota.
Ruhl, born in 1974, has become something of a household name in theater since she was awarded a MacArthur "genius'' grant two years ago. The Clean House, premiered in 2004, begins daringly with the maid, Matilde, telling a joke in Portuguese. It's her mission to find the perfect joke.
"I think that at the most primal level, the intention to be funny, to share wit, is beyond language,'' Ruhl told fellow playwright Paula Vogel in an interview in Bomb magazine. "When I wrote Clean House and began it with the joke in Portuguese that probably no one would understand, that was part of the impulse. But people do laugh. Some nights they don't; that's a night when we're in trouble.''
Karina Barros, who is from Sao Paulo, will play Matilde with Banyan, having previously performed the role at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton. "We had six or eight people read for the part, some coming from a great distance, because it's such a plum,'' Finn said. "Once Karina started the audition, it took us about three minutes to decide she was the one.''
Douglas Jones, the longtime Asolo Theatre actor, will direct a cast that also includes Seva Anthony, Robert Herrle, Geraldine Librandi and Ann Morrison. The Clean House opens Aug. 7 and runs through Aug. 25 at the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. Also on the Banyan schedule are A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neill June 26-July 13 and True West by Sam Shepard July 17-Aug. 3. (941) 358-5330; www.banyantheatercompany.com.
Noel Coward's Private Lives opens the Stageworks 2008-09 season of five plays, which are scheduled to be performed at the Shimberg Playhouse of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and Gorilla Theatre, both in Tampa. By now Stageworks had hoped to be moving into its own theater in Grand Central at Kennedy, a mixed-use development in Tampa's Channelside District. But the sorry state of the economy has slowed fundraising for the new theater, said Midge Mamatas, spokeswoman for the company.
Private Lives (July 10-27) is followed by Golda's Balcony, by William Gibson (Oct. 2-19); Body of Water, by Lee Blessing (Feb. 12-March 1 and a coproduction with Gorilla); Shining City, by Conor McPherson (May 7-24); and The Little Dog Laughed, by Douglas Carter Beane (July 9-26, 2009). Information: (813) 251-8984; www.stageworkstheater.com.
Gorilla Theatre opens its 2008-09 season with an interesting piece of experimental theater, Oak Tree, a two-actor play by Tim Crouch. One actor is the same for every performance, but the second actor is different every time and comes onstage having not even read the play. The second actor — male or female — plays the father of a girl killed in a car accident. The other actor is a hypnotist and the driver of the car in the accident. In an off-Broadway production in 2006, Crouch played the hypnotist opposite a rotating lineup of actors as the father that included Mike Myers, Maura Tierney, Joan Allen, Frances McDormand and Mark Consuelos (Kelly Ripa's husband). Gorilla has not yet cast the show.
After Oak Tree (Sept. 4-21), Gorilla presents Mad Forest, by Caryl Churchill (Oct. 23-Nov. 9), John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation (Dec. 4-21), Aubrey Hampton's Elizabeth and Edward (March 19-April 5) and the Young Dramatists' Project (May 28-June 7, 2009). Information: (813) 879-2914; www.gorillatheatre.com.
Some cooling classics
The excellent violinist Maria Bachmann, with pianist Natalie Zhu, will give a recital of Brahms, Debussy, Ravel and John Corigliano on Aug. 17 at the Marly Room of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, a highlight of the series that keeps classical music alive during the long, hot summer. Others in the series are the Western Jazz Quartet (June 15); guitarist Jason Vieaux (June 29); pianist Adam Neiman (July 20); and pianist Petronel Malan (Aug. 24). Information: (727) 896-2667.
Van Wezel Hall in Sarasota brings in a pair of high-profile orchestras during the 2008-09 season. On Nov. 7, Valery Gergiev leads Russia's Kirov Orchestra in ballet music (selections from Prokofiev's Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet) and the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4, with soloist Alexei Volodin. On Feb. 25 the New York Philharmonic, under music director Lorin Maazel, performs Schumann's Fourth Symphony and other works.
Other orchestras on the Van Wezel agenda: Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra in Celtic and Irish traditional music (Jan. 15); Budapest Festival Orchestra, with Ivan Fischer conducting Brahms' Hungarian dances and Symphony No. 1 (Jan. 30); Munich Symphony Orchestra, with Philippe Entremont as conductor and soloist in Beethoven's Emperor Concerto and Eroica Symphony; Boston Pops Esplanade, conducted by Keith Lockhart and featuring Broadway performers Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley (March 10); National Philharmonic of Russia, with violinist Mayuko Kamio, gold medalist of the 2007 Tchaikovsky Competition (April 8). Information: (941) 953-3368; toll-free 1-800-826-9303; www.vanwezel.org.
John Fleming can be reached at (727) 893-8716 or [email protected]