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Dobama Theatre’s ‘Something Clean’ shines a spotlight on cause and effect

It was in all of the papers and all across the internet. On January 18, 2015, 19 year old Brock Turner, a student athlete on the Stanford University swim team raped an unconscious woman, Chanel Miller (referred in the court documents as “Emily Doe”) behind a dumpster in front of witnesses.

The youth was convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault and sentenced to six months in prison and three years of probation. Turner was also registered as a sex offender for life and had to complete a rehabilitation program. The young man was released from prison for good behavior after serving only three months. Many felt that his punishment did not suit the crime and resulted in Judge Persky’s recall by voters in June of 2018. It also ended up influencing the California legislature to require prison terms for rapists whose victims were unconscious and included digital penetration in the definition of rape.

Having followed the story, playwright Selina Fillinger, who is one of the youngest playwrights to have a play produced on Broadway “POTUS” (which earned three Tony award nominations) set pen to paper. Selina decided to focus less on the youth himself and more on the aftermath of consequences suffered by his parents. The Dobama Theatre production of the play “Something Clean” drives this theme home in excellent fashion.

It is after the trial and during her son’s serving of his prison sentence that Charlotte (Derdriu Ring) is finding her life unraveling and rapidly spinning out of control. Her upscale community has ostracized her to the point that her formerly favorite pastimes of working out at the gym and attending a book club are out of the question. Her husband Doug (Robert Ellis) and her are constantly badgered by reporters and protesters. Their mutual intimacy has suffered to the point where she cannot even be touched by her caring husband. In short, the consequences of her son’s drunken actions has destroyed their lives. Doug deals with the situation by plunging himself into his work and is seldom home while Charlotte simply tries to cope.

Seeking to find some kind of stability and possibly some answers, Charlotte signs up anonymously to volunteer at a rape crisis center with Joey (Isaiah Betts) acting as her superior and mentor. Joey is dealing with issues as well. He is in a six year old gay relationship with a really caring partner but wonders if there is something out there better. He is a rape survivor himself having been abused as a nine year old.

As the imminent release of their son draws near, Charlotte and Doug must break the barrier of silence that is suffocating their relationship, forgive themselves as well as their son and learn to live with the media blitz pressures.

This is one of those rare plays that turns social commentary into an art form. The 85 minute play consists of various short vignettes with each one adding a layer of information for the audience to sift through. In spite of the circumstances, you find yourself rooting for all of the characters. They are ordinary people trying to come to grips with extraordinary circumstance. It is a long hard struggle but with measurable results.

Derdriu Ring as Charlotte is perfect as the mother and wife torn up by her son’s irresponsible behavior. She is strength itself which ends up more of a liability than an asset. It is only when she has a complete breakdown that she is able to learn coping skills needed to save her marriage and life. Robert Ellis is the perfect match as her husband. The two of them together epitomize what it means to be married 20+ years with small clues given to the audience as to the state of their relationship both pretrial and post trial. Isaiah Betts as Joey bubbles with energy and life experience. He is a fast moving stream of conscience energy with deep philosophical ideas.

The stage design by Naoko Skala consists of three scenes (l-r the rape center, the bedroom, the kitchen/dining room). Jeremy Paul is brilliant with the lighting design that focuses each scene with amazing clarity. Angie Hayes handles the sound design that is crisp. The show is directed by Shannon Sindelar who keeps the various interconnected scenes running in quick fashion.

What happens when undeserved blame is showered on the innocent? This play, ripped right out of the pages of the nation’s newspapers and social media feeds tells the unabashed story of a family in crisis and their manner of coping. You will feel yourself drawn in as the story unfolds and rooting for maybe not so much a happy ending but a fair one. See this show.

The Dobama Theatre production of “Something Clean” will be on stage at 2340 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio through March 30, 2024. For more information and tickets go to or call (216) 932-3396.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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