nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
March 12, 2007
Some actors have an endearing quality to the point that it is virtually impossible not to smile from ear to ear when you watch them. Emily Morwen has this quality in abundance. Spotless is the first show she's written and like many playwrights' first shows it is unburdened by the weight of experience and therefore it feels like we have a more direct and honest connection to the writer's mind instead of what she thinks her audience wants to hear.
The story is told through three characters. One is a teenage hypochondriac named Caroline who takes a job as a custodian at a hospital. Caroline has a theory that we are addicted to time and this leads to our unhappiness. She keeps up a stern daily regimen of supplement intake such as shots of wheat grass and 30 disgusting drops of grape fruit extract. We open on her first day at the hospital, where we meet two others on the cleaning crew, Ernie and Angie.
Ernie is a lonely, good-hearted fellow who speaks with a Brooklyn accent not because he's from Brooklyn but rather because he and a childhood friend decided at some point that it would be a cool thing to do. And it might get him a girl, though that seems unlikely since he lives with his senile Mom. Still, if Ernie can screw up the nerve to ask nurse Pam to dinner, maybe things will change for him.
Angie speaks with a Canadian accent and describes the politics of the hospital cafeteria seating, among other things. She tells us that each custodian gets their own little closet to store their cart and all their cleaning stuff. Angie liked to use her closet as her little hideaway, but these days she's able to spend most of her day interacting with people.
Morwen tells all three stories in short vignettes that she weaves together. The pieces of each story have distinct endings and Morwen switches from character to character as each piece comes to its end. These transitions are not seamless and I don't think that is her intention. In a general sense her stories are related, but for the most part they don't have an overall arc that binds all three together. However, that didn't bother me because each little piece of the whole story is so honest, funny at times, and most certainly heartfelt.
I think what I liked most about Spotless is the fact that all of Morwen's characters have such good souls. They describe how hard it can be working around sick and dying people but this fact hasn't soured them. I think it's an excellent choice of Morwen's to make all of her characters so kind instead of trying to show sharply contrasting personalities. In the end, I wanted things to go well for the characters, and in turn go well for Emily Morwen.