Something Clean looks at the aftermath of a rape trial from an unexpected angle | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Something Clean looks at the aftermath of a rape trial from an unexpected angle

Selina Fillinger's drama gets in some good shots in at quick-fix concepts of closure, healing, and even justice.

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The 2016 Brock Turner rape trial, which ended with Turner receiving a slap-on-the-wrist six-month sentence for assaulting an unconscious woman, is the obvious antecedent for Selina Fillinger's Something Clean, now in a coproduction from Rivendell and Sideshow Theatres. But the rapist never appears in Fillinger's drama, which focuses instead on his parents. Charlotte (Mary Cross), the mother, volunteers at a center for sexual assault survivors, where she forms a friendship with Joey (Patrick Agada), a gay survivor and counselor whose own mother kicked him out as a teen when he told her about being raped by a male babysitter. Meanwhile her husband, Doug (Guy Massey), amps up his workaholism and fumbles for ways to reconnect with Charlotte.

Lauren Shouse's taut staging brings out the best in all three actors. However, there are some narrative elements that strain credulity—mostly, that Joey never delves too deeply into Charlotte's real identity (she goes by "Charlie") or recognizes her from the media-saturated trial of her son. The cleansing metaphors (Charlotte is a neat freak—bad luck for someone whose life has gone to shit) also get heavy-handed. But Something Clean gets some good shots in at quick-fix concepts of closure, healing, and even justice itself. We learn that Charlotte told her son's jury that "a few moments of poor judgment do not erase everything a person was or define what he will be." By the end, it's clear that she needs to find a new way to define herself, away from the men in her life she's never fully understood.   v

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