‘Espejos: Clean’ merges unexpected paths, brings two worlds together

'Espejos: Clean' merges unexpected paths

The show seamlessly incorporates two vastly different stories with a perfectly-curated set design.
Published: February 22, 2023
Espejos: Clean
'Espejos: Clean' will run at Syracuse Stage until March 5.

Past lives collide in Espejos: Clean, and it all begins with a peculiar encounter between two women who seemingly couldn’t be more different. Forceful performances and scenic visuals combined, Syracuse Stage’s current production is an emotionally telling pleasure for the eyes. 

Sarah (Kate Abbruzzese) is a Canadian guest at a beach resort who traveled to Cancún, Mexico for her younger sister’s destination wedding. She’s the self-acknowledged disaster-child of the family, and she’s also a little pissed about the lavender dress her sister convinced her to wear for the reception. Tipsy Sarah is out at the bar, her face smeared with eyeliner, when she plummets onto the pool deck tile and cuts her knee. 

Espejos: Clean
Emma Ramos and Kate Abbruzzese face hard truths together while discovering unexpected similarities.

The following morning, housekeeping manager Adriana (Emma Ramos) — who left her shattered home in Chetumal to work at the resort —  is investigating the evidently-murderous scene in Sarah’s hotel room. As Adriana’s walkie talkie chirps, she’s stripping the sheets off the blood-stained bed, when suddenly Sarah barges in, and time stands still. 

Espejos: Clean (told in English and Spanish with dual subtitles) pieces together Sarah’s and Adriana’s stories through sequences of emotionally jarring monologues peppered with witty, lighthearted moments. Sarah and Adriana recall past memories, and even enter exaggerated dreamscapes where they triumph over trauma with the help of each other. Together, Abbruzzese and Ramos beam with so much chemistry, sentiment and humor that Espejos: Clean never really feels like a two person show.

Sarah and Adriana confront their pasts in the midst of a torrential downpour. Adriana is dared to forgive her parents for the environment she was raised in, and Sarah begins to challenge her assumption that others are facing the same abuse she and her sister once experienced. “Clean the wound and start again,” like Sarah says. They both begin to heal. 

They effortlessly transition in voice and expression to embody different characters — most-memorably when Abbruzzese plays Sarah’s mother with a raspy Canadian accent — and also voice/lip-sync each other within the scenarios they day-dream. Espejos: Clean is a testament to body language as a method of communication. When the two encounter a particular moment of frustration, subtitles suddenly vanish and the two rely on cell phone translations and body language to communicate to each other. The show is lively, theatrical, and allows the audience to unwind from the assumption that you have to catch every translation to be moved by a production. 

The Espejos: Clean set feels like the product of a perfectly-curated vision board of breezy Cancun beaches and aesthetic resort life. Covered almost entirely in pastel blue tile, Espejos: Clean’s multi-use set acts as a pool, hotel room, bar, etc. all in one. The stage transforms into a meditative pool when Sarah mimics swimming strokes atop a tiled bar table and water reflections project onto the bottom half of the stage. In other scenes, Sarah and Adriana sit at this same table surrounded by colorful LED lights and booming music, and the stage becomes a club. Surrounding its digital display in a set designed with depth and dimension enlivens Espejos: Clean and makes you feel like you, too, are staying at a Cancun resort.