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Cloud Nine

From 35 critic and 40 member reviews
Members say: Clever, Great acting, Absorbing, Funny, Thought-provoking

About the show

The Atlantic Theater Company presents a revival of the award-winning, landmark play by decorated British playwright Caryl Churchill, about power, politics, family, Queen Victoria, and sex. More…

Set in colonial Africa and 1979 London, Caryl Churchill’s play explores a hypothetical modern society—one where the characters have aged only 25 years since the Victorian era. This timeless and bitingly funny modern classic has not been seen in a major New York production since 1981, when it ran for over two years. 'Cloud Nine' will open The Atlantic's 30th anniversary season this fall.

Lighting & Sound America

"A superbly acted production by James Macdonald that shows it to be both fresh as paint and irretrievably kissed by time...'Cloud Nine' that makes enormous demands on its cast, and, thanks to the canny direction of Macdonald the company assembled for this production brilliantly walks the fine line between caricature and real feeling that the author demands." Full Review

The New York Times

"Few writers have come closer to making sense of the hormonal urges that rule, transport and disrupt our lives than Caryl Churchill does in 'Cloud Nine,' which opened on Monday night in a glorious revival...This compassionate, tough-loving production finds the ecstasy, tragedy and exhilarating madness of what it means to be part of this eternal ball of confusion." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"'Cloud Nine,' now in a superb revival at the Atlantic, has only grown fuller, meatier, sadder, funnier, sexier, and more provocative — more theatrical, too — as the conditions from which it arose have changed radically, and have not...Where it is satirical, it is self-consciously so, and not a day outdated...By the end, in ways both intentional and not, Churchill leaves you feeling as if you’ve lived through the emotional torment of all the decades the play covers, and those yet to come." Full Review


"Macdonald has assembled a seamless ensemble and staged the show with a keen eye for its nuances, underplaying where no overstatement is needed. The crackle-golden lighting by Scott Zielinski and elegantly simple costumes by Gabriel Berry all conspire to make the evening as unforgettable as Tommy Tune’s original New York production all those many years ago. As a revelation, it’s déjà vu all over again." Full Review


"Smart and seriously fun Churchill revival....A production impeccably cast and directed by Churchill specialist James Macdonald; we're aware that a work this clever will always be a step ahead, always pushing us playfully to see human connections that are elusive, important and seriously fun...All perfect." Full Review

Show Showdown

"'Cloud Nine,' Caryl Churchill's brilliant riff on sexual politics, colonialism, identity, and love, is receiving an excellent revival at the Atlantic, directed with a sure hand by James Macdonald...It's strange to live long enough for a favorite play to morph from immediate and contemporary into historical. I'm glad the transition has happened in such good hands." Full Review

Village Voice

"Sometimes a decades-old drama speaks so lucidly today that it reminds us afresh how vast theater's possibilities really are. This is the case with Caryl Churchill's incisive, ironic 1979 play now at the Atlantic under James Macdonald's expert direction...In the hands of this excellent ensemble, Churchill's clear-eyed, darkly comic play shows us how we enact our racial and gender identities, how one form of repression begets another — and just how revelatory revivals can be." Full Review

What's On Off Broadway

"I was unprepared for warmth, humor and pathos that spilled out from this show...It is heartfelt and honest; often reserved, but never stiff...'Cloud Nine' is directed with a lovely touch by James Macdonald. Written 35 years ago by Caryl Churchill, it feels as fresh as if it was written yesterday. Much has changed since 'Cloud Nine' was first performed but honesty, in desires and relationships, has never been more important." Full Review

Becca on Broadway

"This lovely, touching performance is running through November 1st, and I do think it’s worth your time...'Cloud Nine' is point blank and subtle all at once. It’s controversial and ordinary. It’s goofy and serious. Done in the round, this production, directed by James MacDonald and featuring a smart, excellent ensemble, accomplishes just what I think the play intends. I would love for you to go and tell me what you see." Full Review


"Under the sensitive and surefooted direction of James Macdonald, 'Cloud Nine' offers a smart social critique that transcends time. This play could easily be a facile exercise of modern theater folk sneering back at a shameful past. Instead, the shame extends easily into the 20th century and beyond." Full Review


"The production, performed in the round, is an appropriately intimate treatment of intimate subjects. The cast is uniformly superb...The shuffling of players, including their cross-dressing, lends integral color to Churchill’s exploration of kinship, gender politics, and shifting ideologies. In their grappling with what they want and from whom, and whether they are allowed to want it and by whom, there are levels are truth that are likely to astound." Full Review

American Theater Web

"Thanks to a remarkable new production, Churchill’s comedy proves to be remarkably contemporary...Somehow theatergoers feel both drawn in and kept at the slightest remove, so as to keep emotional and intellectual engagement on equal footing...By the time the play reaches its conclusion, there’s not just a sense of satisfaction in having re-encountered it but also one that it is a modern classic, capable of both provoking thought and stirring the heart." Full Review

New York Theatre Guide

"For anyone who hasn’t seen 'Cloud Nine,' it is worth experiencing this play for the first time and for those who have, it is an enchanting production to witness. Although the content and issues presented in the piece may not leave you on 'cloud nine,' they will leave you thinking, and maybe discovering an honest nugget of truth about yourself that you were too scared to see." Full Review

Time Out New York

"A delicious hash of gender and genre, 'Cloud Nine' may be less surprising than it was 35 years ago, but director James Macdonald and his cast—performing in the round, to an audience seated on steep wooden bleachers—keep its edges sharp. Troubled and troubling, puckish and perverse, Churchill’s play is still a slice of theater heaven." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"The gender-bending and role reversals may sound confusing but James Macdonald's sharp direction makes them easy to follow and the performances by the show's seven-member cast are across-the-board superb...But the production doesn't get everything right. I can't help wishing that Macdonald had cast some actors of color, particularly in this play where having a white actor play a black character was intended to make a political statement." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"'Cloud Nine' is valiant and meaningful, even decades after it was conceived. Though it contains humor, it is not a spectacle. No, the mentally exhausting play requires intensive contemplation and an acceptance of confusion, ambiguity, and perplexity. You're not left with a conclusion, a bit of wisdom to glean and take away into the Chelsea air. In its place, Churchill provides you with hours of material that will frustrate, challenge, beguile, and intrigue." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"A delightfully ribald revival...The play is a challenge for actors, who not only alter roles between acts, but often change gender as well. James Macdonald, a frequent collaborator with Churchill, has put together a first-rate cast that doesn't miss a nuance in the play." Full Review

New York Theater

"I enjoyed this entertaining production, with its seven impressively versatile cast members energetically directed by James MacDonald. That the play remains relevant I find beyond dispute...In a play that purportedly explores colonialism and deliberately casts a white actor as a black servant, it seems a missed opportunity in a production in 2015 for the director to have hired only white actors...The playwright’s failure to deal in any direct way with race dates her play." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The cast is exquisite embodying these characters with aplomb. The direction is interesting...Ms. Churchill's writing is brave, but I get the feeling that now she’s looking for medals." Full Review

AM New York

"Are you willing to endure an extremely uncomfortable seating arrangement for a fine revival of one of the most dynamic English dramas of the past four decades?...James Macdonald has staged the revival in-the-round, with audience members sitting on tight benches around a small wooden arena. It's uncomfortable and, despite the added intimacy, unnecessary. But if you can withstand the lack of legroom, 'Cloud Nine' is experimental, highly political playwriting at its best." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"'Cloud Nine' feels fresh, crazy, and relevant enough to have been written yesterday...That is not to say it works perfectly. Macdonald and his cast haven't yet unlocked the same playful verve in Act II, leaving the last hour of the two-and-a-half-hour evening feeling drearier and less specific than it should...The rest of the vehicle of 'Cloud Nine' still looks and smells new, sure. But the lessons underneath are as timeless and rewarding as they come." Full Review


"Macdonald and his very strong cast, let Churchill's words and conceits do most of the work here — and the result, surprisingly, makes a strong case for a play that you might assume would have dated. What very nearly spoils this production, though, is Macdonald's decision to stage the show in the round, with specially-built wooden bleachers. Even worse: The performance space is so tiny that the audience is basically sitting — and sweating — beneath the stage lights." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

" Caryl Churchill’s astounding play is bravely and carefully revived...James McDonald has concocted beautifully nuanced, delicate characters... Trouble is, I missed some danger. There’s a lot of laughter in this play, though I longed to find that gut turning, uncomfortable laughter that often accompanies this kind of madness. There’s a forceful, tightness in the first act that has to push us into the place-finding troubles of the second. This metaphorical corset isn’t tied very tightly." Full Review

New York Daily News

"There's a number of good reasons to see the Atlantic Theater Company's very fine revival of 'Cloud Nine,' including Caryl Churchill's wicked and funny gender-bending script about sex, power and roles...Laughs dry up in the less engaging half...Director James Macdonald, who knows his way around Churchill's works, stages the play in-the-round. Cramped wooden bleaches may make your back ache. The play and the performances will make your head buzz." Full Review

Act Three - The Reviews

"If perhaps Act I was a tad bit too long with a bit of unnecessary exposition and story, Act II was perfectly timed, executed and impactful...Despite the extremely uncomfortable and frankly unsafe seating arrangements that were constructed for this production, the outcome was nothing short of remarkable. A fine cast and a provocative message makes for an exhilarating evening in the theatre." Full Review

Ambitious, Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Profound

See it if This play hasn't aged at all. Intense. Complex. Sophisticated dramatization of race, class, gender, empire. Churchill = great playwright.

Don't see it if You are looking for a whacky comedy. You like comfortable seating.

Absorbing, Clever, Enchanting, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if You don't need a big set or big production to enjoy a show

Don't see it if The above doesn't apply

Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Quirky

See it if you are a fan of well-stacked, absurdist theatre. This was an amazing production of a great play.

Don't see it if you have reservations about progressive thinking and innovative theatre.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Entertaining, Clever, Intelligent

See it if you love great off-broadway theater that is creative and intelligent

Don't see it if you don't like excruciatingly painful unique seating.

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if Exquisite revival of this wonderful mind, time, and gender bending masterwork.

Don't see it if No reason not to see it. It's brilliant!

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Hilarious, Great writing

See it if you love classic Caryl Churchill that is well performed and staged.

Don't see it if a sore butt is very annoying. Grandstand seating is VERY uncomfy. Best seats by a bit are front row

Absorbing, Great staging, Dated, Great writing, Great acting

See it if You appreciate gender bending & examination of gender ( a little stale now but when first produced it was novel) You like intense drama

Don't see it if You have conventional ideas about gender You want something light

Clever, Raunchy, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you're looking for something provocative and edgy with superb acting.

Don't see it if you're easily confused or don't enjoy long plays.

Clever, Intelligent, Original, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy witty, gender-bending explorations of sexual politics; written in 1979, the play feels as fresh today as then.

Don't see it if you can't sit for nearly 3 hours on an uncomfortable bench in a too-hot theater. Sit in the first row for leg room (it's cooler there, too!)

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Funny, Great acting

See it if you enjoy cerebral, thought-provoking pieces that seamlessly blend comedy, drama, metatheater, and social commentary.

Don't see it if you can't sit on an uncomfortable bench for 2.5 hours.

Ambitious, Great acting, Hilarious, Original, Made me think

See it if Enjoy gender-bending, coming-of-age, and send-ups of British Imperial stereotypes. Inventive staging and seating

Don't see it if You can't handle homosexual themes and sitting in seats that make airplane economy seating feel like lots of legroom

Funny, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if you enjoy social commentary plays by one of the best. The play poses more questions than it answers but that's the point,

Don't see it if edgy gender bending nonlinear plays don't entertain you. This is a heady piece and at time almost "absurdist."

Dated, Dizzying, Epic, Great staging, Intelligent

See it if You like smart plays that take focus to understand.

Don't see it if You can't sit still for three hours.

Absorbing, Original, Relevant

See it if you want to have a chance to revisit Caryl Churchill's classic play which remains surprisingly fresh 30 years on. Excellent performances.

Don't see it if you can't manage miserably uncomfortable barrack seating, an overly long second act, somewhat graphic sexual content

Resonant, Thought-provoking, Funny, Edgy, Absorbing

See it if You want to see an intelligent Absurdist play that is well done.

Don't see it if You're not aware of Caryl Churchill or Absurdist works.

Intelligent, Original, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Funny

See it if You like comedies about gender and sexual confusion

Don't see it if Don't like gender bending plays

Ambitious, Intelligent, Original, Great writing

See it if you enjoy Churchill's other work, want to revisit and re-evaluate the themes of gender identity and patriarchy, and are a fan of the actors.

Don't see it if are unprepared to endure extremely uncomfortable seating for 160 minutes.

Quirky, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Clever

See it if you want to experience good gender-bending and attitudes of different eras. I don't think any scenario was left out. Mostly well acted.

Don't see it if If having a playwright experiment with different sexual attitudes. Seating is uncomfortable, but worth it if you like the subject matter.

Confusing, Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you love great acting and you want to think outside the box

Don't see it if you aren't good at following plots or if you don't like one actor playing multiple characters

Ambitious, Absorbing, Profound, Relevant

See it if you are interested in the rolls played by women and men in our society dating from 100 years ago to modern days.

Don't see it if you want to see a polished play with polished costumes, wigs and sets.

Also I found the play too long. The direction could have bee tighter. Howev... Read more Read less

Clever, Funny, Great staging, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you're an Anglophile or are in the mood for something very different.

Don't see it if you're easily confused.

Dated, Great acting, Clever, Overrated, Funny

See it if u want to see a terrific cast relishing a play which contrasts mores of Victorian England (Act I) and the "with it" early 1980s (Act II).

Don't see it if u don't want to be tortured in jerry-built, unfinished wooden seating in the round. Too often the actors faces are looking away from you.

Raunchy, Indulgent, Funny, Ambitious, Quirky

See it if you like to think about the ways men and women relate to each other.

Don't see it if you are put off by male actors playing female roles, females playing males, adults playing small children or whites playing blacks.

Banal, Dated, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated

See it if you enjoy sitting on hard seats with intense lighting making you feel as if you are in a sauna. This goes on for a little under there hours!

Don't see it if you enjoy consistently good acting.

Clever, Entertaining, Great writing, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy Caryl Churchill. You enjoy wacky plays that pack a punch. You are interested in gender, sexuality, race, and class issues.

Don't see it if You are seeking pure entertainment. You don't want to engage intellectually.

Cast & Creatives (13)