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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
Cloud 9 ahead of its time
Arts & Entertainment
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Cloud 9 ahead of its time

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Cloud 9
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through August 6


Cloud 9, by Caryl Churchill, is a profane comedy replete with what used to be called subversive sexuality. One character, the heroic Harry the Adventurer, will do it with anything that moves, possibly even other animal species. Even pedophilia is not out of his reach.

The British ideal of patriarchal supremacy and their disdain for anyone not British is thoroughly skewered in Cloud 9. Churchill's play, written in the late 1970s, sets Act One in the waning years of the British Empire and Act Two in our present, but with the same characters established in Act One - time travel plays by its own rules.

But Churchill specifies that men play women and women play men, and a black native African is played by a white man. This is in her script specifications. The morphing makes the dialogue sound very different when a man plays a dominated, submissive wife, and a little boy is played by a woman. It is very strange to hear a white man talk about himself as black.

The current production by Strawberry Theatre Workshop includes terrific original music composed by Scott Shoemaker (who also plays the black servant Joshua) and Robertson Witmer. As directed by Nick Garrison, this solid cast introduces the evening with a funny and apt song.

James Cowan twitters sweetly as Betty, the long-suffering wife trying to adjust to living in Africa, and Sarah Rudinoff brings a strange, sexual twist to the son, Edward. Edward plays with his sister's doll - to his father Clive's (Ian Bell's) eternal aggravation - and wants to 'do what we did before' with Harry the Adventurer when he arrives for a visit. In fact, almost everyone wants to spend time with Harry (Basil Harris) at one time or another - even the servant. Harry is so used to being sexually accepted that he ultimately misinterprets Clive's announcement that there is no more important relationship than that of male friends.

Gretchen Krich gives a great dual role a workout in Act One as both Mrs. Caroline Saunders, the widowed vigorous neighbor who has sex with Clive, and Ellen, the meek nanny who is actually in love with Betty. Imogen Love portrays Betty's stiff-upper-lipped mother Maud, who comes to visit (but then Betty casually says, 'I think she lives here.') Then, there is the daughter, Victoria, who is a doll - literally, a doll.

Act Two is set more than 100 years later, but for these characters, only 25 years have passed. So, the children have grown and the parents are now the grandparents. Now, women are ascendant over men and Gayness is (almost) acceptable, even to the newly divorcing Betty.

Cowan now plays Betty's son, Edward, who has confronted and become comfortable with being Gay. Victoria is no longer a doll and is played by Rudinoff. She begins a relationship with a single mother, Lin (Love), and Betty, now played by Krich, has to get used to the fact that both her son and daughter are in Gay relationships. Churchill's play was ahead of its time, and thankfully, we seem to be catching up to her.

For more information, go to www.strawshop.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/170269 or call 800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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