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At the vortex of Sarah Ruhls play The Clean House is Matilde, a maid who hates to clean: The daughter of two Brazilian comics, shes smarter than the two doctors she cleans for, and shed rather tell jokes than dust. Last February the play won Ruhl 97 the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, given annually to a woman dramatist. When Yale Repertory staged the plays world premiere this fall, the Hartford Courant described it as a surreal sitcom, with touches of Moliere. Frank Rizzo, in Variety, called Ruhl a poet with the gift of gag. And Charles Isherwood, in the New York Times, said she breathes a little life into the epithet romantic comedy. The play, he said, is romantic, deeply so, but in the more arcane sense of the word: visionary, tinged with fantasy, extravagant in feeling, maybe a little nuts. The Clean House will be staged at three other regional theaters this season: the Wilma, in Philadelphia; the Woolly Mammoth, in Washington, D.C.; and South Coast Repertory, in Costa Mesa, California. In July, Ruhl was named to a seven-year residency at New Dramatists, the New York City hothouse for young playwrights.

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