by Kali Kardas
Content Warning: this post discusses a play with themes of sexual assault and family trauma.
Oregon Contemporary Theatre just closed its fifth show of their ambitious 30th season, a piece by South Eugene High School graduate Selina Fillinger. Fillinger has a blossoming career as a writer on broadway and for television, and it was no surprise that hometown pride was a big part of the marketing for this production. However, this play was highly polished, professional, and the best piece of theatre I have seen this year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see it earlier to spread the word about this show, and it’s now closed, but I hope this review will encourage readers to seek out future shows and take in the experience. It was heartbreaking and powerful.
Something Clean opens on Charlotte, an eager but nervous woman talking to a young Joey (he says he likes going by Joey, so his name ends in a smile) about how she can help. Joey is encouraging her to help with classes or fundraising, and Charlotte says she doesn’t want to have any contact with patients- or victims? Joey says they prefer the term survivor. We discover she is volunteering at a Sexual Assault and Prevention non-profit and later that Charlotte’s son is currently in prison for assaulting a young woman on a college campus.
The play ping-pongs between Charlotte at the center, befriending Joey and learning about healing from trauma, and Charlotte at home, where she no longer seems to know how to relate to her husband, who is desperate for things to return to normal, and several scenes of Charlotte trying to clean up around a dumpster on campus (one we later learn is the site of the assault her son committed). The content is a slow drip that helps the audience take it in before we close our minds to her journey. We learn empathy for Charlotte before we understand the circumstances of her situation. Charlotte’s character was masterfully played by Jeany Van Meltebeke Snider, a visiting artist from Alberta. She was both nervous and sad, but still funny and nurturing. She quickly would exchange tense and defensive words with her husband, played by a local favorite, Paul Dunckel, and then make jokes and give motherly affection to Joey (played by a delightful Michael Eclevia of Corvallis).
While we leave the show wishing for more resolution, a stronger stance, or some kind of justice, we are also left with an understanding that the human condition is complicated and messy. I left the show wishing it had ended differently and realizing later that a different ending wouldn’t have worked. Director Inga Wilson was able to navigate these dark themes with grace and complexity, and we were left feeling raw and unsure of ourselves, just as the characters telling the story. Something Clean is a brilliant tale that leaves one questioning whether we will do what we think we would do when handed a tragic situation. Kudos to Oregon Contemporary Theatre for taking on such a complicated topic.
Be sure to catch what’s next at Oregon Contemporary Theatre. The Northwest Ten Minute Play Festival opens March 31st, and the final play for the OCT season, Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious opens in May.
Learn more about the playwright Selina Fillinger and her success writing for Broadway and television.
The following information is copied from the playbill for Something Clean:
The following statistics were gathered from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National
- Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.
- Meanwhile, only 25 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will be imprisoned.
- On average, there are 463,634 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.
- Women ages 18-24 are at an elevated risk of sexual violence.
- Sexual violence is more prevalent at college than other crimes, with 13% of all students experiencing rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
- The likelihood that a person suffers suicidal or depressive thoughts increases after sexual violence, with 30% of women reporting symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape, and 33% of women who are raped contemplating suicide.
- Perpetrators of sexual violence often know the victim.
To learn more about their nationwide advocacy and support, go to https://www.rainn.org/about-rainn.
If you, or someone you know, is a survivor of sexual assault and need local support, Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) is a non-profit organization providing outreach, advocacy, and support to survivors of sexual violence and their partners, families, and friends throughout Eugene-Springfield and the rest of Lane County. You can reach their toll-free 24/7 hotline at 844-404-7700.
Kali Kardas is a performer, writer, and fitness instructor. She is passionate about food, theatre, and body positivity! She also has an MBA in Sustainable Business from City University of Seattle and has ten years of marketing and communications experience. She lives in Eugene with her husband and three cats. See can be reached at email@example.com.