Cleansed (2023)

Regional Premiere

Ticket Price

We Suggest $35
More If You Have it
Less if you don't


3400 Main St
Houston, TX 77002


Mar 31, 2023 -
Apr 22, 2023
Sarah Kane’s CLEANSED Canceled Due to Unforeseen Tragedy
The Catastrophic Theatre’s production of Sarah Kane’s CLEANSED, scheduled to open this Friday, March 31, has been canceled due to the sudden, untimely death of a beloved cast member.
Zachariah Mustafa was to make his professional acting debut in Kane’s demanding play. He was 23.
Mustafa took to the play, the role, and especially its cast with contagious elan. He had undoubtedly discovered what he wanted to do with his life. He was to become a stage actor, a creator. The small cast, the only ones fortunate enough to experience his work, would universally attest that he stood out as a brave, sensitive, keenly intuitive actor who did not know how to be anything but authentic.
In the words of the playwright, “CLEANSED is a play about love.” The rehearsal room we shared wasn’t so much about love as it was composed of it. The cast had become a body with Zachariah its heart. Last Sunday, that heart was broken. It was unimaginable to continue without him.
Refunds: If you have already purchased tickets to this production and wish to receive a refund you may contact the MATCH box office at:
Memorial Service Details: A memorial service honoring the life of Zachariah Mustafa will take place on Saturday, April 8 from 1-4pm at MATCH. (3400 Main Street) The service will be held inside MATCH Box 3, the theater in which Zachariah was to perform CLEANSED.

Cast & Personnel

Original Music
Production Design
Scenic Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Video Design
Video Programmer
Sound Design
Prop Design
Special FX Designer
Production Manager
Stage Manager
Deck Crew
Technical Director/Builder

The Play

“Love me or kill me.”
Sarah Kane’s brief, boundary breaking career prompted the terms “a theatre of extremes” and “an ethics of catastrophe.” In a former university, society’s “undesirables” are imprisoned and subjected to a series of tortures designed to test the limits of human love on the battlefield of the human body. Explosively aching, hauntingly poetic, and disarmingly tender, Cleansed is a fever-dream fable of unimaginable brutality and miraculous beauty. This whiplash for the soul comes soaked through with hope. Cleansed is undeniably a love story. Given this country’s immediate threat to the bodies and lives of those that look, live, or love in ways that deviate from the most conservative societal ‘norms’, 25 years after it was written, Cleansed feels nightmarishly prescient. The regional premiere of Cleansed is co-directed by Jason Nodler and T Lavois Thiebaud with production design by Afsaneh Aayani and James Templeton, reuniting the team that created last season’s production of Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, which The Houston Press called “an imaginative bulldozer of a production” and “a testament to the collaborative work that happens when two theater artists [Thiebaud and Nodler] are performing at the top of their game.”

The Playwright

SARAH KANE is widely recognized as one of the most radical and influential writers of the last twenty-five years. She was at the front of what was once described as Britain’s In-Yer-Face theatre movement (along with Mark Ravenhill of Shopping and Fucking fame) and her work has been described alternately as a “Theatre of Extremes” and an “Ethics of Catastrophe.” She wrote five plays (Blasted, Phaedra’s Love, Cleansed, Crave and 4.48 Psychosis) and one short film (Skin) before committing suicide in 1999 at the age of 28.
Her first play, Blasted, which premiered in 1995, created a furor in England and started an intense debate in newspapers and tabloids as to whether or not such brutal work should be funded or should even allowed to be performed. During this period, despite the staunch and virulent opposition from critics, she received strong support from The Royal Court Theatre, an institution with a strong history of identifying and providing a home for adventurous playwrights. Additional support came from prominent playwrights Edward Bond and Harold Pinter, each of whom recognized in her a vital, wholly original voice for the theatre and penned passionate op-eds in her defense.

Later in her career, with the benefit of hindsight and the fuller body of her work, most critics retracted their prior criticisms and heralded her as an artist of the highest caliber. Ben Brantley of the New York Times described the SoHo Rep's 2010 production of Kane's Blasted as "one of the most important New York premieres of the decade."

Kane’s work continues to be performed extensively throughout the world and she has developed a cult-like following in many Western countries. Yet this production will mark only the fourth time her work has been seen in Houston. The first was Infernal Bridegroom’s Phaedra’s Love, also under Nodler’s direction, followed by Catastrophic Theatre’s Crave in 2011 and 4.48 Psychosis (2021).

Always interested in finding new forms of theatre, Kane’s work took a significant turn with Crave. Where her prior plays had been full of on-stage, physical brutality and violence, here she was focused on emotional states as played out through the music of voices. Concerned that the play's reception would be affected by her notoriety, Crave premiered in 1998 under the pseudonym Marie Kelvedon. Critics described Crave as the most hopeful of her plays, though Kane found that characterization odd; she said she wrote it “at a time when [she] had lost faith in love” and considered it to be her most despairing work to date.

"What frightened me was the depth of (Kane's) horror and anguish. Everyone's aware, to varying degrees, of the cruelty of mankind, but we manage to compromise with it, put it on the shelf and not think about it for a good part of the day. But I don't think she could do that. I think she had a vision of the world that was extremely accurate, and therefore horrific. Because the world is a fucking awful place. It's a very beautiful place, but this species mankind is an absolute bloody disaster. The elements of sadism are astonishing. She wasn't simply observing mankind; she was part of it. It seems to me she was talking about the violence within herself, the hatred within herself, and the depths of misery that she also suffered."
- Harold Pinter

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