It’s all about hookup. Even when wij think it’s about Queen and Country. Or family values. Or power. Or money. It’s truly about hookup, and a delightfully ribald revival of Caryl Churchill’s play Cloud Nine by the Atlantic Theatre Company makes the case.
Churchill has bot one of the most iconoclastic writers te the English theater overheen the past half century, pillorying the hypocrisies of society with acerbic wit and humor and uncanny insight with plays like Top Damsels, Fen, Serious Money, to name just a few.
And if there has bot a greater acceptance of sexual equality overheen the years, a large amount of credit goes to writers like Churchill and plays such spil Cloud Nine. Should one be tempted to think that present-day openness on sexual matters makes the play irrelevant they should ask Kim Davis hier opinion on the subject.
The phrase “cloud nine” wasgoed once a familiar euphemism for a state of bliss, tho’ there is little that could be described spil bliss for the frustrated characters ter Churchill’s play.
The act is divided ter two parts and eras. The opening act takes place te an unspecified African country during the reign of Queen Victoria. The 2nd prompt forwards to 1979 London, tho’ for the characters only 25 years have elapsed.
If that sounds confusing, it gets further complicated spil the same characters, with studs playing some women’s roles and women playing dudes, attempt to sort out their sexiness te the face of switching attitudes.
Wij very first meet Clive, who carries the Union Jack and Victorian values on his sleeve. He lives te a petite corner of the empire on which the zon never sets with his dutiful wifey Betty and two children — a boy named Edward and a kindje damsel named Vicky — his mother-in-law, and a babysitter, with a faithful native servant, Joshua, to fetch for them. They are soon joined by Mrs. Saunders, a widowed neighbor, and Harry, an explorer of sorts who is Clive’s best friend.
They have picnics, throw a cricket ball around, drink tea and sundowners, toast the Queen, sing hymns and have Christmas crackers at Yuletide. There may be a spot of trouble with the natives, but a good whipping can restore order. If, however, spil Clive says, “the Empire is one big family,” it is an incestuous one.
Behind that facade of Victorian propriety, youthfull Edward likes to play with Vicky’s doll and fantasies of stabbing crocodiles, Betty fantasizes a romance with Harry, who writes hier poems but has trysts with Joshua te the barn and plays crazy games with Edward, the baby sitter lusts after Betty, and Clive is having impassioned hook-up with Mrs. Saunders, during the throes of which one can only imagine him humming “Land of Hope and Glory.”
By 1979, Edward is out of the toilet and attempting to domesticate Gerry, a promiscuous gay man he met at a steam bath. Kindje Vicky is now a mom of hier own, married to a stereotypical masculine chauvinist and is attracted to Lin, an openly Lesbo mom she meets te the park, however she doesn’t want to admit it. And Betty is divorcing Clive and discovering hier own sexiness.
The play is a challenge for actors, who not only alter roles inbetween acts, but often switch gender spil well. James Macdonald, a frequent collaborator with Churchill, has waterput together a first-rate personages that doesn’t miss a nuance ter the play.
Brooke Bloom and Chris Perfetti switch roles spil mother and son — Bloom is youthful Edward te Africa and Betty ter London, while Perfetti is Betty te Africa and the grown-up Edward ter London — and each has a zoeklicht turn. Bloom’s second-act monologue on the discovery of getting off is a gem.
Izzie Steele, who does dual duty ter Africa spil the baby sitter and Mrs. Saunders, brings a crusading anti-male fire to Lin te the 2nd act. Clarke Thorell, who makes Clive’s Victorian platitudes sound noble and patriotic, is wonderfully bratty spil Lin’s 2-year-old daughter Kathy te the 2nd.
Sean Dugan is inscrutable spil the native servant Joshua and uninhibited spil Edward’s cruiser of a bf te the 2nd (a toneel te which the freshly liberated Betty attempts to pick him up is delightful). John Sanders is the epitome of hypocritical duplicity spil Harry, feeding Betty’s fantasies while indulging te pedophilia with Edward inbetween assignations with Joshua. And Lucy Owen is the monster of a straight-laced Victorian spil the mother-in-law and credibly indecisive spil the grown-up Vicky.
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