Theater review by Katrina Tortorici
The Second Year Studio Production presented Cloud Nine, directed by Gary Plaxton, a hilarious spin on the upbringing of youth in 1879 Africa and 1979 England, which played at the Dawson theatre from March 10 to 13.
The play was unexpectedly witty in the olden day setting. It was definitely not shy humour; when Harry Bagley (Benjamin Walsh) turned to the African soldier named Joshua, played by a white male (Devin Swift), and asked out of the blue, “Want to fuck?,” the audience exploded with laughter and the sex jokes afterwards were never-ending. It was like one big spoof of the secret desires of homosexuals in a setting that is rarely associated with such an open issue, making it all the more amusing. Clive (Kyle Mcllhone) is a straight, tough man married to Betty (Ariel Zuckerman), who is played by a man (they were an utterly entertaining pair). Clive tries to deal with his wife’s desire for his best friend, Harry, and his own sexual desires for Mrs. Saunders (Marie Catherine Mignault), who has no interest in him whatsoever. Meanwhile, his son, Edward (Alexandra Moses), is showing signs of homosexuality, as he is constantly after his “uncle” Harry and refuses to let go of his rag doll, always blaming it on “mining it for his little sister”.
Both acts were very different and almost seemed like two separate plays. The transition was confusing, at first, as the setting had moved from 19th century Africa to 20th century London, though the characters from the first act aged only 25 years. This was intended to draw a parallel between the customs with which baby boomers were raised and the similar way of life of the Victorian age. The actors all changed in the second half; Edward, who was played by a woman in the first half, was much older and was now played by a man (Alexander Smith). His mother, Betty, who was played by a man in the first act, was played by Mignault in the second. This was confusing, since Mignault was Mrs. Saunders in the first half and they waited to call her “Betty” only in the middle of the second half. It would have been much more clear had they referred to her as Betty within the first few minutes, rather than force the audience to remain puzzled for some time.
The set and costumes were acceptable. There was nothing in particular that stood out or blended in too much – costume and set designers therefore deserve acknowledgement. A great commendation to the entire cast for the impeccable British accents, and to Devin Swift, as well, whose African accent was impressive and quite funny.
There was not one actor who did not deserve a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the night; the words, “brilliant” and “hilarious” spring to mind. The stage was brimming with future Meryl Streeps and Steve Martins. Alexandra Moses was outstanding, as she put as much originality into her own character of a gay little boy as Johnny put into Jack Sparrow. Ariel Zuckerman also stood out; he played the role of a delicate wife exceptionally and with ease, making the spectators laugh, as his broad shoulders were hardly suitable for his mock lady-like voice. Kyle Mcllhone was terrific, as well. His body stance alone was comical.
Once again, it ran a little long and for such a wonderfully uplifting play, the ending could have been less abrupt. Nonetheless, people left the theatre with raised spirits and excited banter.