The Queens College Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance debuted their production of Caryl Churchill’s “Cloud 9” on Oct. 27 at the Performance Space, M11, in Rathaus Hall.
The play was directed by Ana Margineanu and is broken into two very different acts. Act I takes place in Victorian times in a British colony in Africa and Act II takes place in 1979
London. All of the characters experience different things in both acts, but the themes of sexual discovery and confusion of gender are present in both.
“In my eyes the play is about sexual repression,” Eleni Rosenboom, a senior art education major, said. “It is about how we had to play a role and live up to an expectation in the past, which caused people to repress their feelings, and how even in the 1970’s and the present we have a role to play as a ‘free’ person experimenting with sexuality. It’s about how we are still expected to live up to societal standards and how the past and our ancestors will continue to haunt us and our conscience.” Rosenboom played the characters of Mrs. Saunders in Act I and Lin in Act II.
In Act I, Mrs. Saunders is a free spirit who seeks refuge in the home of Clive, played by Michael Najman, due to the dangers outside in Africa. Rosenboom said that Mrs. Saunders is not afraid to speak her mind and is curious about the world, unlike the other women in the play. She tries to get away from Clive’s advances, but gives in to him in the end.
“In Act I, I play Betty, who is the epitome of the Victorian woman at her wit’s end: trying to have the perfect life and perfect family but somehow always pining for more, so when Harry Bagley and Mrs. Saunders show up and mess with that dynamic, the audience gets to watch this family deal with the fallout, however they deal with it,” Brian Rivera, a senior drama major, said.
Harry Bagley pines over Betty and, despite her marriage to Clive and Harry’s questionable sexuality, they have an affair of sorts.
In Act II, Rivera played Martin, the husband to Betty’s youngest child, Victoria, now all grown-up and less “doll-like” than she is presented in Act I. Martin always wants to dominate the conversation, but in the late 1970’s, an era of liberation, he has to act like he’s listening.
“I would definitely describe him as emotionally and sometimes physically abusive toward Victoria, but in Martin’s mind it’s all out of love and the frustration with his wife’s indecisiveness,” Rivera said.
Rosenboom’s other character Lin is a tough character but an insecure mother. She despises men and likes to flirt with mothers at the playground she goes to with her daughter, Cathy. Lin pursues Victoria, played by Claire Kostova, and ends up in a serious relationship with her, as they experiment with sex and form a threesome with Victoria’s brother, Edward.
“Although Lin and Victoria are opposites, they are both confused as to who they are and what they want. Lin is in pain from her brother’s death and broken relationships from her past while she struggles to control her boisterous child,” Rosenboom said.
Rosenboom added that Margineanu has a young daughter and gave exceptional advice to adult actors who had to play children. Both Rivera and Rosenboom enjoyed working with Margineanu.
“She is a professional and has much experience with immersive theater, which made this experience exciting for me. She always made sure we were engaging the audience, whether we were making out on top of them, running through the audience’s seats or having Cathy shoot them with her toy gun,” Rosenboom said.
“Ana is a combination of the ‘visual, aesthetic’ director and the ‘actor’s’ director; she knew what she wanted out of the show, but she was completely open to our thoughts and opinions. She was a wonderful collaborator, and that’s all you could ever want out of a director, really,” Rivera said.
Rivera said that his one hope is that the audience takes away some new perspective on the spectrums of gender, identity and sexuality.
“I’d like to mention how supportive and helpful drama professors like Claudia Feldstein and Katherine Profeta were in supporting the cast. They both always offer exceptional advice, love, support and a willingness to help and they are very much appreciated,” Rosenboom said.
The QC Theatre Guild will debut another show starting Nov. 17 to Nov. 20, Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” It will take place at The Little Theatre, King Hall 115. It starts at 7:30 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it will begin at 3:00 p.m.