Fresh Ink’s ‘The Housekeeper’ Really Shines (4 stars)
by Catherine Collins
The Housekeeper – Written by Ginger Lazarus; Directed by Shana Gozansky; Scenic Design by Arianna Knox, Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl; Lighting Design by Emily Bearce; Sound Design by Darren Evans; and Prop Design by Gabriel Graetz. Presented by Fresh Ink Theatre Company at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston through January 30.
Adelina, the title character in Fresh Ink’s “The Housekeeper’, is just that, a housekeeper. But this housekeeper is no ordinary domestic, targeting widowers who need someone to step in and metaphorically clean up their lives. A wife that has passed leaves a home needing a surrogate to manage the living situation, and that includes cleaning, laundry, cooking – and a pseudo therapist. The housekeeper, Adelina (Margarita Martinez) is proficient, deep and mysterious. She’s very willing to step up and handle whatever is needed – including helping to sort through the dead wife’s belongings when the time comes.
Adelina is hired to care for the home of Charlie (Dale J. Young) and his daughter, Kaila (Alexis Scheer), and she steps in with compassion and kindness to fill the shoes of the deceased wife, Carson (Gillian Mackay-Smith), while Charlie isn’t even aware that he needs a fill-in. He’s fighting the changes in his life while simultaneously wrestling with the loss. Dale J. Young is perfectly cast as Charlie, playing the character with humor, depth and believability. His daughter Kaila is an angst-ridden 14-year old who is alternately a “Hello Kitty”-loving and rebellious young woman on the verge of maturity, who is struggling with needing her Mom, finding teen love, and trying to connect with her dad. Scheer does an amazing job winning over the audience, and becomes quite a likable character as her pain is revealed. It was easy to feel compassion for Kaila in the intimate setting of the Playwright’s Theater.
Adelina has the ability to see ghosts, so that’s the twist in this clever new work. In fact, when the ghost of the deceased Carson appears, it’s a convincing depiction of what one might actually think about when picturing how your family might get along without you, if you were to die. She doesn’t like the way Adelina might actually be better at the wifely duties, cleaning, laundry, etc., than she had been. Cringing from the next life while casting a dark shadow on the work of Adelina, Mackay-Smith as Carson is spot on with her depth and struggles of what she left behind.
But Adelina has her own ghosts, as we learn through the mysterious phone calls she receives in Act I – foreshadowing a more complex life outside of the home in which she’s keeping house. The Adelina character is more deeply explored in Act II, when Martinez really shows us the extent to which one’s past can work its way through to the present. She embodies the compassion, pain and the struggles of life, and really brings the storyline together.
The four-room set was simple, but nicely designed. Ginger Lazarus’ writing is rich in content, and ‘The Housekeeper’ explores so much in two hours. Anyone looking to get their own house in order might benefit from seeing such a well written show that inspires so much thought. For more info, go to: www.freshinktheatre.org