BWW Review: Who You Gonna Call? THE HOUSEKEEPER

BWW Review: Who You Gonna Call? THE HOUSEKEEPER

The Housekeeper

Written by Ginger Lazarus, Directed by Shana Gozansky; Dramaturg, Sara Brookner; Assistant Director, Zachary Rice; Stage Manager, George Page; Scenic Design, Arianna Knox; Costume Design, Chelsea Kerl; Lighting Design, Emily Bearce; Sound Design, Darren Evans; Prop Design, Gabriel Graetz

CAST (in order of appearance): Margarita Martinez, Dale J. Young, Gillian Mackay-Smith, Alexis Scheer

Performances through January 30 by Fresh Ink Theatre Company at Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA; Tickets: Ovation Tix 866-811-4111 or

Fresh Ink Theatre Company presents the inaugural production of Ginger Lazarus' The Housekeeper, a four-character drama that subscribes to the theory that there are ghosts among us, that death is not always the last word, and living with guilt can be a fate worse than death. The playwright's ambitions sometimes outpace her ability to clearly articulate the plot, but when Lazarus sharpens the focus on her complex, sympathetic protagonist, she finds a fresh angle to what could be a mundane story and keeps the audience invested.

We meet Adelina (Margarita Martinez) when she is being interviewed for a housekeeping job by Charlie Frey (Dale J. Young), a recent widower and father of fourteen-year-old Kaila (Alexis Scheer), who doesn't have much of a clue about what he needs. Adelina is quick to point out all the help she can provide to the household, doing things that Charlie never had to think about when his wife Carson was alive. It doesn't take long before the house is running pretty smoothly and Charlie takes Adelina for granted. Kaila is a tougher sell; she's a typical pouty, secretive teen with an obsession for Hello, Kitty and Jameson, an older boy at her school. As the single mother of a teenage son, Adelina is undaunted by the challenging girl and patiently bides her time.

It comes as no surprise to the housekeeper when Carson (Gillian Mackay-Smith) puts in an appearance while she's folding the laundry. It's happened to her on previous jobs when the deceased had unfinished business or the family was in some sort of disarray. In this case, both of those things are true, but Adelina seems to welcome Carson's input and advice to help manage the chaos. As she gets more involved in putting out fires for the Freys, Adelina's family issues, past and present, smolder within her, testing her ability to do her job without ignoring her own needs. Even as she sees her role as the professional who can straighten out Kaila and gently guide Charlie, she begins to see herself with greater clarity and acknowledge her mistakes.

The first act consists of a great deal of exposition about the Freys, making sure that we know that Kaila is uncooperative and immature, and that Charlie is inept and frustrated. The women are shown to be the competent ones; even in death Carson can have a positive impact on things, and Adelina has all the answers. However, there is a little intrigue thrown in as the housekeeper looks troubled whenever she receives a phone call. The second act is almost like a different play. Mackay-Smith, Young, and Scheer appear wearing masks in order to portray Adelina's parents, sister, and lovers and act out her back story in "The Life of Adelina." While it explains a lot, it is an awkward device that doesn't really move the story forward or explain the sudden changes in the other characters when the masks are removed and the action goes back to the future at the Frey household.

Scenic designer Arianna Knox divides the stage into four areas: Dad's den and the kitchen in the foreground, a daybed upstage, and a loft that serves as Kaila's bedroom. Emily Bearce lights each area as it is used, and prop designer Gabriel Graetz provides appropriate layers of clutter to reflect the chaos. Costume designer Chelsea Kerl manages to make Scheer look like a teenager with her Hello, Kitty garb and Darren Evans handles sound design.

Director Shana Gozansky's pacing allows the story to unfold evenly, but there are few pulse-quickening moments. The father-daughter conflict is a natural phenomenon, but there are so many outbursts that it dulls the effect. When a postmortem discovery is made that legitimately would cause consternation or hurt feelings, it is glossed over and we're on to the next mini-crisis. The actors don't have enough time to delve too deeply because they have to move on, but they do a good job with what they've been given. The characters are interesting, but they are not evenly developed. The Housekeeper contains some rich material, but less would be more. At this juncture, it's a little messy, a little cluttered. Sounds like a task for Adelina.

Photo credit: Louise Hamill (Dale J. Young, Margarita Martinez, Alexis Scheer)

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From This Author Nancy Grossman

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