Few plays have hooked me from the very first read quite like Something Clean. Playwright Selina Fillinger has crafted a story so human, it hardly feels “written” at all. The character of Charlotte – a mother seeking redemption in the wake of her son’s violent crime – could have been lifted from an actual household, from an actual family. And the questions that gnaw at her echo the fears of parents everywhere. What happens when the person they love the most does something cruel? Does their love for that person change? Are they, as parents, partially responsible?
It isn’t hard to spot the parallels between Something Clean and some of the biggest headlines of recent years. Selina’s impetus for writing the play, in fact, stems from the case of Brock Turner, a Stanford University undergraduate who in January 2015 sexually assaulted a young woman after a party. In the middle of a trial that made national news and ended in a sentencing criticized for its extreme leniency, Turner was photographed walking into a courthouse holding hands with his mother. What is her story?
This is what makes Something Clean so uniquely daring: its focus on the peripheral aftermath of an act of violence. Outside the spotlight, the parents of the perpetrator are left to rebuild their own lives, finding their way back into their community and reckoning with the blame they feel they shoulder. It is a quiet but treacherous journey, and Selina captures all its largest and smallest moments of guilt, desperation, and hope with heartbreaking realism. With director Margot Bordelon at the helm – who is returning to the Underground after directing a stunning production of Jiréh Breon Holder’s Too Heavy for Your Pocket in 2017 – Something Clean comes to life with sharp, incisive authenticity.
Like all Underground playwrights, Selina is making her New York City debut with this production, which includes a commission for her next work. Now in its 12th season, Roundabout Underground has achieved a stunning degree of success since launching with Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate in 2007. In the years since their Underground productions, all 15 alumni have gone on to fruitful writing careers, whether for the stage or for the screen.
Over the past three seasons alone, three of these alumni have made their Broadway debuts: Stephen Karam (The Humans, 2016 Tony Award® for Best Play and Finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize); Joshua Harmon (Significant Other); and Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen, 2017 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical). Both The Humans and Significant Other began in our Laura Pels Theatre, just upstairs from the Black Box at the Steinberg Center. In addition, Underground alumna Lindsey Ferrentino made her debut at the National Theatre in London in spring 2017 with her play Ugly Lies the Bone, which premiered here in the Underground in 2015. I am so pleased to watch as our relationships with the Underground writers have grown over the years and given rise to such magnificent successes at Roundabout and beyond.
As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts on our season, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your reactions. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!