Cloud Nine: Theater review by Adam Feldman
The first act of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine is a tautly subversive sex farce, set in colonial Africa. Victorian English patriarch Clive (Clarke Thorell) runs his household with confident insensitivity; his wife, Betty (a subtle Chris Perfetti), longs for the dashing explorer (John Sanders) who has been molesting her sissyish son, Edward (the extraordinary Brooke Bloom), whose governess (Izzie Steele) pines for Betty. Meanwhile, their black servant, Jacob (the white, coiled Sean Dugan), watches in restive submission. Repression and internalized loathing rule this outpost of Britannia.
The uncorseted second act takes place in 1979 London, when Cloud Nine was written, though the characters who return are only 25 years older. (Perfetti is now Edward, and Bloom is Betty.) The old rules have dissolved and love is freer, but liberation breeds new problems, and the old archetypes won't give up the ghost. A delicious hash of gender and genre, Cloud Nine may be less surprising than it was 35 years ago, but director James Macdonald and his cast—performing in the round, to an audience seated on steep wooden bleachers—keep its edges sharp. Troubled and troubling, puckish and perverse, Churchill’s play is still a slice of theater heaven.—Adam Feldman
Atlantic Theater Company (Off Broadway). By Caryl Churchill. Directed by James Macdonald. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
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