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Theatre Scene—‘Clean Start,’ Play About Beverly Hills Socialist Forced To Move In With Her Latina Maid, Ends Run This Weekend

Playwrights Josefina Lopez and Kathy Fischer at Casa 0101. Photo by Steve Moyer

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2015 – 8:45 PM

The world premiere of Clean Start, Josefina Lopez’ and Kathy Fischer’s new play about what happens when a down-on-her-luck Beverly Hills socialite is forced to move in with her Latina housekeeper, ends its run this weekend at Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights.

By popular demand, additional performances of the comedy have been added—a 3 p.m. matinee Saturday and an 8 p.m. performance Sunday. These are in addition to the regularly scheduled performances at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday.

The playwrights were inspired by what happened to Bernie Madoff’s wife and so their socialite Parker Reed (Kim Chase) has a husband whose Ponzii scheme swindled their friends who blame her and turn their backs on her. So she’s forced to move in with her former employee Rosario Rodriguez (Ingrid Oliu) They were also influenced by an article in Vanity Fair, Once Upon a Time in Beverly Hills, about Fred de Cordova’s wife who lost her fortune and moved in with her maid in Mexico.

“Our play had its genesis when the recession was in full swing and the mortgage crisis was pushing people out of their homes,” said Fischer.  Bernie’s wife, Ruth, was blacklisted from every spa, five-star restaurant and country club around the world. Or so we imagined. Even the rich were learning to dial back on spending and trying to stretch every dollar. Josefina joked, ‘Now everyone has to learn to live like a Mexican.’ Hence, the premise for our play evolved.”

Leslie Conliffe, Lopez’s manager and Fischer’s agent, suggested the partnership of two writers with similar sensibilities. The two first met at UCLA’s School of Film, Theater and Television where they earned their MFA degrees in screenwriting. “We’re also both painters and mature women,” adds Lopez.

“We just hit it off and started bouncing ideas off each other,” says Fischer. Adds Lopez: “It’s good to have insight have from someone who’s not Latina to complement the story. I don’t think the script would be as well rounded without her.”

The team initially pitched Clean Start as a sitcom. And there’s a touch of The Golden Girls with Rosario’s oversexed, immature and self-indulgent sister Blanca (Maria Russell) and a wise-cracking superstitious mother, Dona Maria Rodriguez (Marina Gonzalez Palmier). When it wasn’t picked up, the pair, that “believes in this story,” decided to rework it as a play and mount it at Casa 0101 with Fischer directing.

Lopez sees “Clean Start” as a story of sisterhood and women “working it out and getting beyond class. There’s the loyal maid who’s saved enough to buy a house and is taking care of her sister and mother, and then she’s caught in the middle when her former boss moves in.  They have to figure out how to coexist in a tiny household. Women should bring their girlfriends and come see it,” recommends Lopez. “They will have a great time with these characters dishing and gossiping.”

Lopez, best known for Real Women Have Curves, considers this her “lightest play,” but not without a message. “All women are discriminated equally when it comes to being beautiful and keeping you mouth shut,” says Lopez. “There is universal oppression in having to be beautiful like that’s the most important thing you’re going to do. So Parker must come to the harsh realization that being clueless, passive and never involved has not served her.”

For Fischer the play is about finding the silver lining of financial hardship. “The characters find inner strengh, independence and common ground. They learn that you can shed what you don’t need and keep what’s really valuable— friendships, and people who are there for you.”

The play marks the start of the theatre company’s 15th or Quinceañera season and the play “winks” at that by having Blanca, at 35, plan for her celebration.

“I’m proud we’re still in existence,” ways Lopez who founded Casa 0101 after she couldn’t find a company to mount her plays. “There were 19 productions of Real Women, and it was ridiculous that I couldn’t get it produced in L.A. There are so many talented Latino actors who need opportunities to shine and show their talent; and there are so many Latino stories that need to be told to show the whole spectrum of the Latino experience in the U.S. Hollywood has it’s stereotypes of Latino maids. But in this play she’s the protagonist.”

 Next for Lopez is Drunk Girl, an exploration of rape in media and social media. She also has a dramedy in development at ABC.

Fischer is the first recipient of the David and Lynn Angell Humanitas Fellowship for Television Comedy Writing at UCLA. She was a staff writer on The George Lopez Show, wrote for ABC Family’s Just a Phase and worked as a consulting producer on Whatever, Martha! She was chosen as a Writer’s Guild of America Writer Access Project Honoree for her television comedy writing. In addition to television, Fischer has also penned feature films for Walt Disney Pictures and various independent production companies.

Casa 0101 Theater, is at 2012 East First St. (at St. Louis Street across the street from the Hollenbeck Police Station) in Boyle Heights.

Tickets are $20 general admission, and $17 students/seniors.

Advance reservations are recommended. For tickets, call the theaatter box office, 323-263-7684, email tickets@casa0101.org, or purchase online at www.casa0101.org.

—Steve Simmons

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