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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 17
Sharp Clouds a solid concept
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Sharp Clouds a solid concept

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Clouds: A Reality Play
Ghost Light Theatricals
Through May 1


Alexis Holzer's smart, cheeky adaptation of Aristophanes' The Clouds, an ancient Greek comedy, both stands the original on its ear a bit and also greatly stays true to the heart of it. Aristophanes was skewering his modern society and poking fun at Socrates' teaching methods. He was particularly pointing at people who looked for ways to turn inferior arguments into winning ones, though history doesn't present Socrates as one who made spurious arguments.

Holzer finds ample ammunition in our current fascination with reality television and the cult of celebrity. She also takes aim at the advertising industry, which turns relatively useless items into desirable ones through the use of artful language - that is, people lie about stuff, and it works.

This production at Ghost Light Theatricals is equal parts a great idea, an apt skewering, uneven, and too long. Some of that may be due to Holzer's choice to direct her own work - often a perilous choice. One can only guess at whether a competent director as a partner would have helped Holzer refine the work.

As a director, Holzer gets great work out of Kristina Sutherland, who plays Stephanie, the reality star of 'Blond Bitch,' a Real Housewives-style take-off. Last season, her husband left her for a younger woman, and her lack of financial control and lack of alimony is costing her her house. This season, the ratings are so low that her show is in danger of getting cancelled. This propels her into looking for ways to reinvent herself to preserve her access to fame and fortune.

Sutherland nails the serious predicament of the character while allowing the audience to laugh at her. When she enrolls in Socrates' school, it is clear that she's not going to actually learn anything useful. In fact, the middle of the play, where she is tutored, is the murkiest (and longest) part. Points are scored for demonstrating how advertising distorts truth, though.

As Stephanie vainly (and vainly) tries to reinvent herself, her daughter is approached to become the new reality star and transforms from a bookish anti-celeb into a monster teen phenomenon. Stephanie's most awful dreams have come true.

The clouds of the title are transformed here from the Greek chorus to the reality television film crew: a producer, boom mic operator, cameraperson, and lighting technician. The adaptation doesn't use them as much as the original play would have. They are present, but provide less commentary. While they make fun of some of what they film, they also don't acknowledge the role they play in perpetuating the trash on TV, and justify that by 'needing a job.' The bodies are necessary on stage, but not that pertinent to the rest of the story.

Particularly fun performances from the competent ensemble were Rebecca Lea McCarthy as the terribly treated maid, Marta; Amelia Meckler as several stereotypical professor-infomercial commentator types; and Kelsey Yuhara as the bookish then celeb-wild daughter, Mercedes.

For more information, go to www.ghostlighttheatricals.org or call 206-395-5458.

Discuss opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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