“Cloud 9” examines the cultural change in sexual politics

Kaitlin Graves and Sam Weiner perform in Act 1 of “Cloud 9.” The play experiments with gender roles by asking its actors to play multiple characters during and between acts who are both male and female. Photo by Christina Velasquez.

“Cloud 9” will encourage the audience to challenge their own views and ideas as it opens at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 13, at the Stieren Theater.

“Cloud 9” was written by Caryl Churchill and it portrays the topic of gender politics, telling the story of a family in times of sexual oppression. The first act takes place in British colonial Africa and the second act takes place in 1979 London. The play uses different periods in time to depict societal changes.

“One of the things that I find most interesting about it is its treatment of time and that she essentially covers an entire century of cultural change and shows the tremendous cultural shift that took place in the 1960s. You notice that the characters only age 25 years and that means that these characters were children of the ’50s, which was a very repressive era,” said Stacey Connelly, director.

The characters live in a time with restrictive gender roles that define who they should be and restrict who they want to be.

“We see how being reared in this oppressive environment has warped them, has damaged them in a way, and they are trying very hard to construct new identities,” Connelly said.

The play presents many controversial topics which the cast was able to display while engaging the audience.

They became the characters they portrayed to tell a story that many would feel uncomfortable listening to, making it relatable and very entertaining.

“With all the gender flipping and race flipping it really allows you to present something that would normally be very strange and inappropriate in a way that visually is a little more tolerable,” said Alyssa Sedillo, who plays Edward in the first act and Betty in the second. “And also, there is a lot of comedy in the show and it sort of is able to bring up some not-talked-about subjects in a way that the audience could tolerate.”

This play challenges the audience to rethink the way they see issues, like gender oppression and sexuality.

“The main idea is to force people to question their own ideas about gender and sexuality and how they should relate to it and how they think the family should be constructed,” said Sam Weiner, who plays Clive in the first act and Cathy in the second. “I think there is not a specific direction given so much as an opportunity for people to question what they see around them.”

“Cloud 9” brings about a very different view on family than what most people are used to seeing. It shows the audience some unusual versions of relationships between family members.

“I just think that the sort of bizarre, insane look that it has on family and just these relationships that come about are very interesting today, because we live in a society that is kind of behind on allowing these kinds of families to exist. It’s very important in how it brings light to them,” said Seth Larson, who plays Betty in the first act and Edward in the second.

“Cloud 9” challenges the audience to look past the possible disagreements on certain issues and look instead at how these issues have formed society. Connelly describes the play as an opportunity for the audience to learn about themselves.

“I think it’s about freeing yourself from conventional ideas and constructing your own identity,” Connelly said.