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The Cleaning Guy

Written and Performed by Paul Adams; Music by Paul Adams and Matt Casarino; Directed by Melissa Attebery
Produced by Emerging Artists Theatre
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival

Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 8.28.16
VENUE #16: The Huron Club, 15 Vandam Street



by Shane McConnell on 8.17.16


The Cleaning GuyPaul Adams in The Cleaning Guy. Photo by Hershey Miller.


BOTTOM LINE: A touching and funny autobiographical account of cleaning New Yorkers' apartments.

Just as Paul Adams can't help getting emotionally involved in his clients' lives, I too felt gripped by the stories in his one-man show, The Cleaning Guy. It's fun watching this polite Midwesterner help tidy up for New Yorkers, all the while giving wonderful impressions of his former clients. This is also the story of an entrepreneur who, after working for an agency, struck out on his own and enjoyed the freedom of walking away from abusive clients.  

Hearing details of inhabitants' apartments provides a voyeuristic thrill, and entering each apartment carries suspense, whether that apartment is suspiciously clean or overwhelmingly dirty. Even the minutiae of Adams' workday may provoke you to make a mental note about your own cleaning practices, as when he explains how using one cleanser has an advantage over another. Along the way, Adams receives some pointed instructions from his clients, such as how to make a bed while sitting on it and why it's important to clean the inside of shower curtain rings.

The personable live scoring from composer-pianist Matt Casarino adds energy to the musical numbers. The wardrobe works seamlessly, as a sleeveless t-shirt and basic shorts in bright colors are not only appropriate for cleaning and sweating, but seem like they belong in a detergent commercial. One of my favorite moments: a song with the refrain "It's a hair! It's a hair!"; another is the interactive fun of guessing the names of the famous people Adams worked for. Each correct answer wins an audience member a prize that can be used in any kitchen.

For many New Yorkers, simultaneously keeping our domiciles spotless and our relationships wholesome can seem daunting, and the desperation many of us feel becomes clear through Adams' exploration of getting needs met in a service economy. The Cleaning Guy is littered with interesting vignettes of people who struggle with their living spaces: for example, the person who has two feet of trash in his apartment becomes more human when we learn he was robbed and wants to ward off future robbers. 

Most poignantly, the sadness of losing clients to disease and death really stands out. One of the most memorable stories concerns the painful phone call Adams felt compelled to make to a mother who hired him to clean her college-aged daughter's apartment. Adams becomes a hero when he demands the neglectful mother come visit her daughter—who, alone, bed-ridden, and dying of AIDS, has no one to care for her. Some stories need to be shared on a stage.

(The Cleaning Guy plays at VENUE #16: The Huron Club, 15 Vandam Street, downstairs, through August 24, 2016. The running time is 1 hour. Performances are Sat 8/13 at 5:15; Mon 8/15 at 7:15; Thu 8/18 at 9:30; Sun 8/21 at 4:30; Wed 8/24 at 6:15; and Sun 8/28 at 1 (added FringeFAVE performance). There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at For more information visit For information about and tickets to this show's Fringe Encores run, visit


The Cleaning Guy is written and performed by Paul Adams. Directed by Melissa Attebery. Music Composition and Arrangements by Matt Casarino. Assistant Music Direction by Jill Knapp. Stage Manager is Elizabeth Ramsay.