The Cloudism Project from Borealis Theatre seeks to create an “atmosphere” for a unique interactive experience. What we get is a clever, but in fact, conventional play.
Perhaps this was the audience’s fault: passive or active, no audience gets more out of a play than they put in, but it’s also true that when an audience doesn’t go where the production wants it to go, there was a miscalculation somewhere in the production.
Performance wise, I hold the cast blameless. The Cloudism cast of eight performers approach their characters with sincerity, and importantly, have fun doing it.
The play they have created underwhelms me, though. The Cloudism Project is about an hour and a half of entertainment split into two more or less unrelated stories using a completely different set of characters.
“When the Earth Moves” begins with a character named Light dancing across the stage in a trance. She interrupts her dance to pull fellow cast members, planted in the audience, onto the stage. As the new characters reveal their personalities, the audience is invited to sing whatever song they feel is appropriate, in hopes of creating a beautiful cacophony. But this audience, as a whole, was too timid to accept the challenge. This part was actually fun, and a little awkward.
Afterwards, the story loses its promise. The characters, eager to explore the confines of their world, go through some humorous on-stage motions, then creatively use the backstage area as a setting, with the aid of their outdoor voices. Returning, they bring a box full of props with them. After emptying the contents on the floor, they act out one fantasy after another, culminating in an attempt to build a spaceship. I kept wondering what they were trying to accomplish. But more importantly, I wondered how they expected the audience to respond. If this was supposed to be an interactive performance, how was the crowd’s response supposed to affect the story?
“(This is) No Play” is a bit more compelling. Though the story feels more scripted, they don’t try so hard to involve the audience, yet find some surprising ways to force the audience into the story. This story relies on the element of surprise, so I can’t tell you too much, but I will give you the set-up. The stage is darkened; the only light comes from a succession of sources: first a flashlight, then a floor lamp, then a set of flickering house lights. As the characters gather in this unknown space, they muse of their fear of dark, and later on their greater fear of the light.
I will say no more than that. The cast, with all good notions has created a work that is a labor of love, but probably one that needs a little more thinking.
The Cloudism Project has 3 performances, ending July 27, 2012, at The Shop at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Steve rates this 2 out of a possible 5.