CLOUD NINE 
(Review by Lynda Giddings and Carrie Humphrey)

May-July 2003, the  Los Angeles Hudson Theater presented Caryl Churchill’s CLOUD NINE James Morrison plays the parts of Clive/Edward.

morrison.jpg (47186 bytes)When asked if he approached the roles of Clive/Edward in Caryl Churchill's "Cloud Nine" any differently than he did in the original productions, James Morrison said simply, "Yes. I'm a different actor than I was 20 years ago." And it is that difference and his growth as an actor that have enabled him to expand his perspective, and take his performance to another level.

James' Clive, in Act I, is a humorous portrayal of the stereotypical Victorian gentleman. He is pompous and arrogant, strutting like a peacock, his chin jutting out with inflated self-importance, as he surveys his domain. When displeased, his face takes on a pinched, slightly sneering expression, as though there were an offensive odor in the air. This broader characterization was inspired by the fact that Bette, Clive's wife, was obviously being played by a man, as opposed to the female impersonators of previous productions. Realizing that he could not deliver the line "You're so delicate and sensitive." in a straightforward manner, James chose instead to give a more farcical twist to the part.

In contrast, his interpretation of Edward (Act II) is entirely believable. He is soft-spoken and effeminate, though not overtly so; a gentle gay man who wants nothing more than to be someone's 'wife'. But he cannot be true to his nature and display these traits openly, for fear of losing his job. Even his lover of two years leaves him because he's too needy, too 'feminine'. In truth, Edward is a woman trapped in a man's body, and, when alone with his thoughts, the pain and loneliness this causes him is evident on his face. It is only when he gains the acceptance of his sister, Victoria, and her lover, Lin that his features relax, his eyes begin to sparkle and his laugh becomes genuine. For the first time, he is free to relish the joy of just being himself.

Two different characters, two singular approaches - one played with comical absurdity, the other with tender sensitivity; two distinct performances from one exceptional actor.

 

Director Harry Mastrogeorge's staging sports nifty designs and overall solid performances. James Morrison's shift from Victorian paterfamilias to his gay son is absolute. David C. Nichols for Los Angeles Times. 

The versatile ensemble is sublime. James Morrison is amusingly pompous in Act One as the controlling patriarch Clive; he's equally on target in Act Two as Clive's son Edward. Back Stage West 

Individually, each performer exhibits both versatility and craft, with both the play's humor and its message about sexual oppression intensified by the cross-gender and cross-racial casting. LA Weekly

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