A great play made better by Director Nini Chakvetadze

Nino Burduli plays Virginia, and Salome Maisashvili plays Matilde in The Clean House; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

The Clean House is a great play. It won the 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which is awarded annually to the best English-language play written by a woman, and it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Susanna Melo and I enjoyed reading the play before we saw the performance.

But the director, Nini Chakvetadze, one of our Tbilisi “daughters,” along with her actors, transformed the words into an even funnier, more whimsical, more believable experience. The play was performed in a small theater, with an audience of about 50 people, facing a relatively large rectangular stage. Around the stage, a series of about 10 light bulbs hung from the ceiling. Every time an actor “arrived,” (s)he pulled a string to turn on a light, and when (s)he left, the light was turned off. This simple but clever signal also refocused the audience’s attention to different parts of the stage. I also enjoyed the way Nini used some different sized white boxes to represent furniture, which actors would move around when “cleaning” the house. Sometimes the two larger boxes represented separate rooms in a home. Actors would enter the side of a box and close the “room’s door.”

The Clean House revolves around Matilde, a Brazilian cleaning woman who doesn’t like to clean but loves to create jokes. Salome Maisashvili brought a lot of energy to her role, and her body language brought the romantic comedy to life. In the opening scene, she tells a sexually charged joke in Portuguese. During an early rehearsal, Susanna Melo, a native Portuguese speaker, had provided a single language lesson. During the performance, Salome told the joke with gusto and without an accent.

Eka Chkheidze played the challenging role of Lane, a doctor who hired the maid to clean her house. Eka actually made it seem possible that Lane, an intelligent woman, could discover her husband having an affair with an older woman suffering from breast cancer, named Ana, and briefly afterwards could bring this “other woman” to her home and care for Ana.

Ana was played by Darejan Khachidze, who also acts in a convincing manner. Ana not only falls in love, but she bonds immediately with Matilde, the maid, and Ana later asks Matilde to kill her by telling her “the perfect joke.” Indeed, Ana hears the joke and dies laughing.

Nino Burduli played Virgina, Lane’s sister, who is an obsessive cleaner. In my mind, Nino was the funniest actor because of her exaggerated facial expressions.

I hope you have a chance to see The Clean House and to see any play directed by Nini Chakvetadze.

Salome Maisashvili plays Matilde, and Darejan Khachidze plays Ana in The Clean House; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Eka Chkheidze plays Lane, and Salome Maisashvili plays Matilde, in The Clean House; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

3 Responses to A great play made better by Director Nini Chakvetadze

  1. Salinda says:

    I had the greatest opportunity and pleasure to see the play :))) But as I know Salome is Maisashvili not Jvebenava :)))

  2. Anonymous says:

    really good performance. cute and funny. :)) good luck guys :))

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