The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Cloud Nine
Organization Falcon's Eye Theatre
Date(s) of show April 17 - May 3, 1015
Reviewer Gerry Camp
Review For those going unprepared to Caryl Churchill’s “Cloud Nine,” a new production by The Falcon’s Eye, Folsom Lake College’s Theatre Department, a glance at the program could be disorienting. Some characters seem to be played by actors of the wrong gender, Act II takes place 100 years after Act I, but most of the same characters are still around and seem to have aged only 25 years. And the actors have switched roles, and often sexes, between the two acts. Certainly we’re in for a “different” theatre experience.

Act I takes place in Colonial Africa in 1880. Clive, a colonial administrator, and his wife Betty are worried because the natives are restless. Act II is in London in 1980. Clive is no longer in the picture, but his wife and her young daughter Victoria and son Edward are facing the sexual ambiguities of the modern world.

It would be pointless to try to recount the plots of either act, because the playwright’s focus is on the wildly exaggerated actions—largely dealing with lust in both acts—of the oversized characters. And it is the full-out, over-the-top performances by the perfect cast that keep the audience enthralled from start to finish.

Tom Rhatigan’s Clive in Act I is the stereotype of the colonial chauvinist. He knows what’s best for England and dominates his wife and children, trying to beat his son Edward out of his desire to play with his sister’s doll. His transformation in Act II, to the somersaulting and swinging five-year-old Cathy, daughter of the neighborhood lesbian, must be seen to be believed.

The family’s black servant Joshua is usually played by a white actor. Director Christine Nicholson had the brilliant idea to cast a black actor, Anthony M. Person, but to begin the play with his face almost entirely covered with stark white makeup. He sings “My skin is black but oh my soul is white,” but as the act progresses the white makeup erodes until he is entirely black by its close. In Act II Person is a gay hustler, and he is outstanding in both roles.

The children of the family include his son Edward, played in Act I by Katherine Peters, who transforms into the sexually-enthusiastic daughter Victoria in Act II. (Victoria in Act I is performed flawlessly by a rag doll). Steve Ibarra is male in both acts, first as the explorer Harry Bagley, who mainly explores the bodies of every person, whatever sex or age, in the house, but morphs into the somewhat confused husband of Victoria in Act II.

Ms. Afton Parker plays two sides of female sexuality in Act I, both the repressed lesbian maid and Clive’s seemingly uptight neighbor who, he claims, keeps him aroused nearly twenty-four hours a day. In Act II she has become middle-aged Betty. Cynthia Hawes, Betty’s mother in Act I, is the very lusty lesbian Lin in Act II.

The crowning performances in the show, for me, are those of Michael Coleman. He is Clive’s wife Betty in Act I, and rather than take the easy road of playing a man in drag for laughs, he simply is this tall, proud, sensitive wife and mother. Seeing his performance without reading the program, audience members would probably only notice that the director chose a very tall woman to play the role. This is character acting at its finest. Coleman is also excellent in Act II as Betty and Clive’s son Edward, but when he returns at play’s end as the Victorian Betty confronting the 1980’s Betty the moment is quite moving.

If you don’t enjoy raunchy humor, which embraces not just straight and gay lust but pedophilia and a threesome with a hint of incest as well, if bad language and explicit actions on stage offend you, you should probably miss this show, as it is obscene from start to finish. But if over-the-top humor and brilliant ensemble acting are your cup of tea, leave the kids at home and enjoy two hours of stage madness at Harris Center which you’ll be thinking about for weeks.

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