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Clean House, The - Full Length Play, Comedy

Clean House, The

Sarah Ruhl

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Full Length Play, Comedy

1m, 4f

ISBN: 9780573633980

Winner! 2003-2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
Finalist! 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Drama

More Information Below:

Description | Characters | Media | Author | Now Playing | Reviews
: Acting Edition
Clean House and Other Plays, The

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Minimum Fee: $125 per performance


Full Length Play


120 minutes (2 hours)

Time Period - Present Day

Settings Of Play - A metaphysical Connecticut.


Interior Set

Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes




College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre


Pulitzer, From Off-Broadway

Winner! 2003-2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
Finalist! 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Drama

Sarah Ruhl is the 2003 recipient of the Whiting Award for Drama

After its acclaimed run at Yale Repertory Theatre, this extraordinary play by an exciting voice in the American drama was was done to equal acclaim at several major theatres coast to coast before winding up Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center, where it had an extended run. The play takes place in what the author describes as "metaphysical Connecticut," mostly in the home of a married couple who are both doctors. They have hired a housekeeper named Matilde, an aspiring comedian from Brazil who's more interested in coming up with the perfect joke than in house-cleaning. Lane, the lady of the house, has an eccentric sister named Virginia who's just nuts about house-cleaning. She and Matilde become fast friends, and Virginia takes over the cleaning while Matilde works on her jokes. Trouble comes when Lane's husband Charles reveals that he has found his soul mate, or "bashert" in a cancer patient named Anna, on whom he has operated. The actors who play Charles and Anna also play Matilde's parents in a series of dream-like memories, as we learn the story about how they literally killed each other with laughter, giving new meaning to the phrase, "I almost died laughing." This theatrical and wildly funny play is a whimsical and poignant look at class, comedy and the true nature of love.


"Fresh, funny ... a memorable play, imbued with a melancholy but somehow comforting philosophy: that the messes and disappointments of life are as much a part of its beauty as romantic love and chocolate ice cream, and a perfect punch line can be as sublime as the most wrenchingly lovely aria." - The New York Times

"A rich work about big themes from a young playwright with an original and audacious voice." - Variety

"Casts a spell that had me hooked." - The New York Daily News 


For The Clean House on Her 10th Brithday 
by Derick Edgren 
October 5, 2016

The Clean House premiered at Yale Repertory Theatre on September 17, 2004.



1m, 4f


Role(s) for Latino Actor(s)


Ana is named as sixty-seven within the dialogue. This number may be changed from production to production if need be.

LANE - a doctor, a woman in her early fifties. She wears white.
MATILDE - Lane’s cleaning lady, a woman in her late twenties. She wears black.  She is Brazilian. She has a refined sense of deadpan.
VIRGINIA - Lane’s sister, a woman in her late fifties.
CHARLES - Lane’s husband, a man in his fifties. A compassionate surgeon. He is child like underneath his white coat. In the first Act, Charles plays Matilde’s father.
ANA - a woman who is older than Lane. She is Argentinean. She is impossibly charismatic. In the first Act she plays Matilde’s mother.
  • Jon Jory on The Clean House

  • Scene from Remy Bumpo's The Clean House

Sarah Ruhl

Sarah Ruhl

Sarah Ruhl’s plays include How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, The Oldest Boy, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, The Clean House, Orlando, Late: a cowboy song, Dear Elizabeth and Stage Kiss. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Tony Award nominee. Her plays have been produced on Broadway at the Lyceum by Lincoln Center Theater, off-Broadway at ... view full profile

Now Playing
Patrice Robinson 7/23/2015 1:20 PM
I found this play to be unusual, bordering on peculiar. The relationships among the characters is not suitable for our area of the country.  A late night theater may do well with thi.
Ashlyn Anderson 5/14/2015 6:31 PM
Francesca Allegra 4/17/2013 4:36 PM
“The Clean House” is not the most entrancing title to read on the spine of a play; however, it is intensely accurate for the material at hand: the play opens with three characters’ vastly different perspectives on cleaning. What’s more, “The Clean House” suggests a home that will invariably be tidy to some extent—and yet, by dubbing her piece as such, Ruhl instantly clues her readers into the fact that, everyone has both literal and metaphorical dirty laundry that will creep out of the spotlessness eventually. The title also suggests where the audience will take place; thus, if one is seeking a play set in the wilderness, they need not crack open this play. While the language within the play is so much more poetic than the title gives it credit for, I believe Ruhl is right in hiding the beauty within the play’s innocuous moniker; likewise, one’s own concretely clean house hides the intangible tumult that ensues within it.

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