Keeping House and Conversing with Ghosts in “The Housekeeper”

Photo credit: Amanda Sheehan

Photo credit: Amanda Sheehan

Presented by Fresh Ink Theatre at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
By Ginger Lazarus
Directed by Shana Gozansky

January 15-30, 2016
Fresh Ink Theatre on Facebook

Review by Travis Manni

(Boston, MA) Fresh Ink Theatre has the sole mission of allowing playwrights to shape their craft through the production and workshop processes to produce art that is professional and refreshing. I was excited to see The Housekeeper because of this mission, and I was not disappointed.

First off, The Housekeeper is a ghost story. Well, we find out that our main character, Adelina (Margarita Martinez), a middle aged woman who loves opera and is supporting her son through college, is a medium of sorts. This isn’t apparent until the dead wife of Adelina’s new client for a housekeeping job comes to have a chat while she’s folding laundry. She is calm and collected, almost as if she had been expecting this dead wife, Carson (Gillian Mackay-Smith), to show up. Adelina explains that she uses her housekeeping skills to help families move on after a member of the household passes on.

The first couple of scenes in the play do a good job of misleading the audience into thinking the show is going to be semi-normal. There’s Charlie (Dale J. Young), the despondent husband who’s grown careless, and Kaila (Alexis Scheer) the angsty, love-struck teenage girl who lets everything wash over her with a look of sassy know-it-all resentment. Act I did a good job of establishing these characters and what they want, though perhaps at a pace that was drawn out. But Act II is where the play really amps it up.

Act II entrances the audience in a lucid backstory that takes risks and fast-tracks the plot, which further convinced me that the first act was too slow. Adelina’s life is exposed in a raw way that shakes up the play’s tone. After learning who Adelina truly is through the artistic use of ancient Greek-like theatrical masks, the housekeeper’s capabilities to fix this family are brought into serious question.

All of the actors involved in this production worked phenomenally well together. Martinez as the determined and hard-working housekeeper exudes a sense of ease and makes the atmosphere of the show breathable despite the tension that often comes with a show that features death. Mackay-Smith as the dead mother delivers the stunningly beautiful grief that only a mother can convey.

Arianna Knox’s scenic design was a great accomplishment of the show as well. She was able to create a living household, including a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms, in a small space without conveying a sense of clutter. To construct an entire home within the confines of a stage was remarkably satisfying.

The Housekeeper is a show about death, grief, and picking up broken pieces. It’s about looking for what you’ve lost and realizing it never existed or belonged to you, but finding yourself along the way. What I love about Fresh Ink Theatre is that, in the two productions I’ve seen, there is always a defining moment that really sticks with me and heightens the show into a realm of theatre that is pure, yet relatable, art. It gives life to the inexplicable thoughts and desires all humans experience. In The Housekeeper, it was a simple line spoken by Adelina as she thinks back on her parents when they told her siblings, “All they wished for us and all they left unfinished.” The ghosts of the past don’t exist just to tidy up and resolve their own unfinished business. They linger as a catalyst for change and as a reminder to keep moving forward.

The Housekeeper runs for 2 hours, 10 minutes with one intermission. Tickets can be purchase by clicking here.

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