When Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine premiered at Darlington College of Arts in February of 1979, Europe was struggling through a deep recession, London was plagued by riots and looting, and a Conservative government was looking on in shock and horror. Sound familiar? More than 30 years later, the issues of gender, race, and colonial history raised by this wildly gender-bending, postmodern comedy may have shifted ground somewhat, but many of the old inequities of power and privilege remain firmly in place. For Anne Torsiglieri’s new production of Cloud Nine, which opens Friday, November 4, and runs through Saturday, November 12, at UCSB’s Performing Arts Theatre, a stellar team of actors and designers has been recruited from among the students and faculty of the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance. In addition to Torsiglieri directing, there’s Ann Bruice doing costumes, James Connolly composing original music, Christopher Pilafian choreographing, and Jeff Mills coaching the movement in the fight sequences. The actors include Brian Allan Bock, Brittany Carriger, Andrew Fromer, Allie Granat, Dylan Hale, Hasmik Anna Saakian, and Garret Ward. For tickets and information, visit theaterdance.ucsb.edu. When I spoke with Anne Torsiglieri by phone last week, she gave me lots of great reasons to see Cloud Nine. Here are four of the best:
1. The Bravery: “This is a brave and talented cast,” said Torsiglieri. “Cloud Nine remains dangerous material, and the show is definitely not for children. I am so proud of how the actors have risen to the challenge of a very tricky play.”
2. The Message: Torsiglieri said that “Cloud Nine gets viewed as primarily about gender, but what rocks my world about it is the beauty of people accepting who they are and getting away from being told who and what they should be.”
3. The Community: “We’re having a special night with a block of tickets set aside for all the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups and students on campus to come and enjoy the show together,” Torsiglieri said.
4. The Version: For those who have seen Cloud Nine before, there’s news about the particular version that’s being done this time. “This is the British version,” Torsiglieri said, “not the American one, which means two more original songs, one in the first act and another in the second. We’ve got Chris Pilafian to choreograph the musical numbers, so if you’ve seen the play before, you probably still haven’t seen these parts.”