Taysha Marie Canales’ The Floor Wipers makes its debut as part of the Wilma’s HotHouse shorts series and illustrates friendship’s capacity for defusing even the most apocalyptic situations with humor.
The Wilma’s Hothouse company is made up of their resident artists who have the opportunity to develop and put on new works. They have put together a series of digital shorts that range in style, with some resembling music videos and others one-act plays. Floor Wipers is part of three digital shorts that are available to view for free.
The play is set in the NBA’s Covid Bubble during the 2020 playoffs with Jaylene Clark Owens and Marie Canales portraying floor wipers who are tasked with keeping the court’s floor clean from players’ sweat. Clark Owens’ character has “material girl” ambitions and is determined to find a new husband amongst the players. She even creates a “Player Compatibility Index” to rank which player is best suited to her taste. Marie Canales plays her counterpart, always ready to deliver the punch line that Clark Owens has set up for her.
The two floor wipers bond over the experience of finding refuge from the pandemic within their temporary bubble. If you’ve ever had a workplace bestie, you’ll likely appreciate the hi-jinks and antics they engage in on the courts. For example, Clark Owens’ instructions on wiping the floor with sex appeal brought to mind the many ways that bored office workers―including myself―often enliven the monotony of their jobs. Other distractions include whining about receiving only one work T-shirt while joking that the “B” in NBA must stand for “budget.”
These moments brought to mind the ways that my own friends have elevated quibbles to epic scale as a tool for escaping the horror show of the ongoing pandemic.
When Marie Canales and Clark Owens aren’t riffing off of each other, they are grappling with the dystopian world that they live in―the very same dystopia we inhabit. During the national anthem, they mention the players kneeling in protest. Clark Owens accidentally shows up to a game that is canceled because the Milwaukee Bucks are refusing to play in protest of the Jacob Blake shooting. At another game, both astutely note that “only the wealthy can survive this” pandemic.
However, because this is a bite-sized piece of theatre, their exploration of trauma feels hurried and unexplored. The floor wipers’ friendship is authentic and absolutely nourishing to watch, but I felt that they could have interrogated the trauma of their situation with more than passing remarks. Otherwise the dialogue seems more staged than poignant. I am left wondering what insightful dialogue they might have had outside of their work obligations or the show’s 15-minute time limit.
Near the end of Floor Wipers, Maria Canales reveals that she longs for an extra week or two in the bubble. That sudden acknowledgment of the calamities that are waiting for her in the outside world awakened me from the peace I’d found in her performance. It also brought to mind conversations I’ve had with good friends; moments that brought me to my own refuge. Perhaps that is The Floor Wipers’ point: cherished friendships are the real bubbles that protect us from the world.
The Floor Wipers is available to watch through May 15th. Register for free here.