Editorial Review

Fringe Festival: ‘Cloudism’ is definitely in the clouds

By Stephanie Merry
Sunday, July 17, 2011

Welcome to the fringes of the Fringe Festival. In a field of strange productions, “Cloudism” proclaims its singularity immediately when even the simple act of entering the theater is turned into a curious experience. A man on crutches ushers audience members into the Shop at Fort Fringe, only to block each person’s path to the risers. Before letting theatergoers pass, he mimics their movements for a few seconds, which, on a recent evening, may have allowed him some insight into how the hour would proceed.

Some theatergoers reveled in the pantomime, twirling hands and shaking heads; others seemed to think the act was akin to the world’s most frustrating funhouse mirror, wondering when their guide would let them sit down.

“Cloudism” is designed for people in the former group, because it depends on Fringe fans who feel comfortable under the stage’s spotlight.

Audience members are given opportunities to participate in the action, while “actors” busy themselves miming, playing a cello and counting to 100. There are hula hoops and mannequin torsos. People are invited to climb a ladder and look into a giant plastic eye or twirl umbrellas across the stage. There are also colorful plastic balls for throwing or, as one woman did, placing like Easter eggs around the set.

Other interactive props included a silent man standing around in a white mask (who served as both a blank canvas for drawing and a dancing partner, depending on people’s whims), an old television set playing static, a fog machine and a trumpet.

As the action unfolded, the set began to look more like a children’s day-care center filled with makeshift toys than any traditional theater stage. Fans of merely observational performances might find the whole thing tiresome, but those involved seemed to enjoy the hour of playtime. And while the show seems to celebrate its own bizarreness, the production isn’t merely an anomaly; it’s more like anarchy — with umbrellas and live cello music.