Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill is a weird play.
Act I is set in British colonial Africa during the late 1800’s, and Act II is set in 1979 London. The characters, who are played by different actors in each act, age 25 years over intermission.
Ellen loves Betty, who is married to Clive, who cheats on her with Mrs. Saunders, while Betty lusts after Harry, who is secretly having sex with Joshua and Edward. And that’s just Act I.
Though the play is strange, the production at Big Idea Theatre is (as always) fantastic.
Jerry Kennedy shines in both acts in two vastly different roles. At the start, he is the perfect pith helmeted Victorian patriarch. It’s as if he were born to play the role. And, in Act II, he plays the occasionally petulant and constantly hilarious five-year-old girl, Cathy. Kennedy could not have been asked to play two more diverse roles, and he rocks them both.
Benjamin T. Ismail shines as Clive’s wife Betty in Act I. His mannerisms and timing as Betty are impeccable. He follows up by playing Edward in Act II, and does well in the role. But his performance as Betty takes the cake.
Elizabeth Holzman plays a very strong Lin in Act II. Holzman’s Act I appearance as Edward is good, but is far outshone by her role in Act II.
Gina Harrower is a delightfully dynamic player in this piece. Harrower initially plays the very dour and extremely repressed family governess, Ellen. She is buttoned-up, and she couldn’t look more stiff if she tried — which is exactly what the role calls for. In Act II, Harrower looks like a completely different person when she enters as Victoria. She plays the free-spirited daughter of Clive and Betty with surprising grace — even bringing some subtlety to this over-the-top play.
The rest of the cast is also fantastic. Big Idea Theatre always brings out the best in its casts, and the actors in Cloud 9 are no exception.
Though I’m not a fan of the play itself, Big Idea has done an excellent job of putting it up, with high production values, and a great cast.