The last time a major production of Caryl Chuchill’s Cloud Nine was seen in New York was in 1981 so I was very pleased to catch the revival at Atlantic Theater Company. This lovely, touching performance is running through November 1st, and I do think it’s worth your time.
Cloud Nine was a popular play to study back in college, especially in my Contemporary British Feminist Playwrights class when I studied abroad in England. How does one sum up this play? It’s about family, love, and sex. Even more so, it’s about oppression and putting people in boxes, forcing them to meet certain expectations, particularly gay people and women.
The first act is set in colonial Africa during the Victorian era, and then the second act jumps forward to 1979 in London. However, the characters have only aged 25 years, something my older seatmates across the way had a little trouble grasping, but don’t worry, we talked it out during intermission. This storytelling twist provides a unique opportunity to view this set of characters in two contradicting worlds, yet ironically, the standards and expectations of society seem not to change much between the two time periods. And as we watch this in the year 2015, we find that the topics of LBGT rights and feminism are just as ripe.
Cloud Nine is point blank and subtle all at once. It’s controversial and ordinary. It’s goofy and serious. Done in the round, this production, directed by James MacDonald and featuring a smart, excellent ensemble, accomplishes just what I think the play intends. I would love for you to go and tell me what you see. Do you think it makes a point? Do you think the point has been made before and it’s becoming trite? Or is this old play still bringing something new to the table?
The older folks sitting by me asked, “Is Caryl Churchill a feminist?” “Yes,” I replied. “Ohh, did she hate men?” I hope they are able to come away from this piece recognizing that those are two different things.
Note: the seating is not very comfortable. The bleachers that were constructed to allow for a more intimate, in-the-round performance are not ideal. The Atlantic is encouraging audience members to bring a pillow or small cushion to make their seat more comfortable. Usually I’m the first to complain about bad seating (my back issues makes me an easy target), but I did okay! It’s not a reason to skip the show.
Written by Caryl Churchill, Directed by James MacDonald
Atlantic Theater Company, Closes November 1st
Photo Credit: Doug Hamilton
Pictured: Lucy Owen and Chris Perfetti
Here’s something I’ve learned about myself after watching years and years of theatre: I need narrative. I crave it. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a linear narrative (LOST anyone?). But if anything, I need to be able to make connections within the piece, whether it’s through plot points, characters, clues, something more specific than thematic. It’s how I personally connect and relate. That’s what gives a story purpose for me.
Love and Information is Caryl Churchill’s new play currently being produced by New York Theatre Workshop and performed at Minetta Lane Theatre. It’s just under two hours and a collection of vignettes – moving, hilarious, and thought-provoking. Each “scene” ranges from a few minutes to a few seconds – a full conversation or perhaps a single phrase, and then it’s gone in the blink of an eye as the set swiftly changes to the next set of circumstances. These pieces are lovely to say the least – beautifully entertaining, some very funny, others heartbreaking. Plus the fantastic design (lights, set, and sound) only adds to the setting. With this style of theatre, you as an audience member have to constantly adapt to new situations and figure out what’s going on. I like having to work in that way. But then, that was it. After 45 minutes, I started to check out once I realized there wasn’t going to be a “story” in the typical sense. Not that I didn’t enjoy the rest of the scenes! If the second half had happened first, I would have appreciated those just as much. It was simply the nature of the piece as a whole that I had difficulty with. It’s hard for me to stay engaged that long to watch brief moments in time. Others may not need the narrative as much as I do. The themes and issues brought up from scene to scene may be enough to get their gears turning.
I do think it’s exciting to note that the script itself is pretty much bare-bones, not specifying place, gender, character, situation, etc. From basic dialogue on a page, the ensemble created this piece and all of the beautiful details. I love when theatre does that. I simply left craving a greater common denominator linking these vignettes other than topics of “love” and “information.”
Love and Information
Written by Caryl Churchill, Directed by James Macdonald
Minetta Lane Theatre, closing April 6th
Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich
Pictured:Noah Galvin and Adante Power