Certainly the content of gender identity and sexual repression as it relates to political power and social violence created difficulties for audiences in the 80s, when this play premiered over here. Men playing women pretending to be men was a Shakespearian era convention, but Churchill used gender-bending casting to explore and confront these issues. But even with the alarming ascent of reactionary fundamentalism, audiences today are better prepared to see what Churchill is getting at, and to get the jokes.
On the other hand, I can appreciate the weariness of those who feel they are constantly being told that the world is so awful because of people of their color, class, gender and/or sexuality. What I especially appreciate about Churchill is that I never feel demonized, and in the sense of trying to be part of the solution, I never feel excluded. I think this is partly due to how she links gender and racial prejudices to sexual repression generally, which seems accurate, and it makes the play more universal. But mostly I’m guessing it’s the irony in her writing and stagecraft. Irony is an equal opportunity deflator and illuminator.
The HSU production of Cloud 9, directed by John Heckel, begins in the Gist Hall Theatre this Thursday for a two-weekend run. If you are automatically offended by bad words, outrageous ideas and sexual situations in unconventional permutations, don’t go. You can find more information at http://Cloud9HSU.blogspot.com, including comments by the director. I put the blog together as the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance department publicist. The views expressed there represent the department. The views expressed here, as always, represent nobody but me.