Reviewed by Terry Morgan
Antaeus Theatre Company/Antaeus Theatre
Through April 24
The Antaeus Theatre Company once again demonstrates its immense value to the Los Angeles theatre community, this time with a superb revival of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9. It’s an ambitious and tricky work, but under Casey Stangl’s thoughtful direction, an inspired ensemble does the play proud. As usual, Antaeus “partner-casts” its productions; this review is of “The Blighters” cast.
In British colonial Africa, Clive (Bo Foxworth) oversees the local area, where he depends on his supposedly loyal African servant Joshua (Chad Borden) for support. Clive’s wife Betty (Bill Brochtrup), however, longs for a more adventurous life, and also for Clive’s friend Harry (David DeSantos). Harry, unfortunately, has already secretly initiated sexual relations with Betty’s young son Edward (Deborah Puette). Meanwhile, in the background, local unrest and simmering anger toward the colonizers is beginning to grow.
The performers assume dual roles. In Act 1, Foxworth is perfection as Clive, the hypocritical man of his times; he’s also hilarious as the almost feral child Cathy in Act 2. Brochtrup does lovely work as Betty, a Victorian wife, channeling her with subtlety and understated desperation; later he exudes a hard-won calm as the adult Edward. Puette is fantastic in two roles: heartbreaking as the confused and abused young Edward, and touching as the older version of Betty as she tries to adjust to a new life.
Borden is memorably fine as the sexually rapacious Gerry and the casually treacherous Joshua. DeSantos gives detailed and incisive performances as Harry and the controlling if well-meaning Martin. Liza de Weerd is appropriately chilly as Betty’s mother Maud, and equally warm as Betty’s adult daughter Victoria. Finally, Abigail Marks is charismatic as the blunt Lin, and does impressive turns as the liberated Mrs. Saunders and the love-struck governess Ellen. Kudos to her as well for a heroic number of costume changes.
Stangl’s most impressive achievement as director is that she manages to make everything in this complicated play work. Not only do the performers successfully portray two characters each (and usually of the opposite sex to their own), but the action takes place in two different time periods, with Churchill’s tone frequently shifting from comedy to drama. It’s also paced expertly and staged with fluid grace. A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s costumes — for example, Edward’s “Little Boy Blue” outfit and the older Betty’s chic ensemble — bring a lot to the party.
It’s rare to see a show these days with a large cast and outsized artistic scope, and Antaeus has done a magnificent job here. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Antaeus Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd.; Thur.-Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; through April 24. www.Antaeus.org. Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.