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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cloud Nine at the Balagan Theater

O and I had a genu-wine date night last Friday. We went to see Cloud Nine at a new local theater, and followed up with a lovely cocktail and cheese plate at the 1200 Bistro next door. I had a Colorado toddy, something sweet and whiskey with star anise, orange peel and cardamom. Our platter included slices of manchego and a generous wedge of humbolt fog (a beautiful goat cheese) with figs, dried cherries, Mama Lil's marinated peppers, pickled fennel, grainy mustard, olives, and toasts. It was a wonderful capper to the evening. It was nice to treat ourselves and create the opportunity to simply enjoy each other's company: just the sort of thing that couples neglect doing far too much.

But... the play's the thing.

My co-worker Jake Groshong, who joined JFS a little over a year ago, is something of an impresario. He invited me to come see his new company's production of Transylvania Clockworks last October. Olaiya and I went, and found it to exceed our expectations in every way. The acting was remarkable, with a stand-out performance by Roy Stanton as Count Dracula. The sets and costumes were minimal, in a typically modern theater fashion, but the script was excellent. The teeth of the production found their mark. We sat spellbound and ruminated on the themes and meaning of the play for days afterward.

Now in their new space, the current Balagan offering, Cloud Nine, is both sparklingly funny and bitingly poignant. It deals with sexual repression (of the Victorian variety,) feminism, heterocentrism, and phallocentric imperialism. The first act, set in colonial Africa, sets up the plays themes and resounds with laughs and absurd situations. It also gives Chris Macdonald a chance to shine in the show's bravest and most compelling single character: Joshua, an assimilated African tribesman.

The second act takes place 100 years later in modern day England... however the characters have only aged 25 years... allowing the playwright the opportunity to see how we still inherit these strange values, and how we define ourselves as we rebel against them. There are fewer laughs, and more dramatic risks, in the second half but I never felt the play wallow in melodrama. The messages hit home with startling precision and force.

I warn potential audience members in advance that there are few sympathetic straight males in this production. If you are a straight male who requires a character to identify with, you may not be able to tolerate this particular play. Even so, I encourage you to check out Balagan's other offerings. They are new, they are hungry, they are doing a damn fine job.



At 10/21/2007 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Walaka said...

For a second I thought your Audio Snack was your new profile picture and was terribly confused.

The play sounds interesting, and the conceit reminds me of Orlando... we'll check it out.


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