CLOUDS, Dog & Pony Theatre Company, at the Chicago Cultural Center. It’s hard to believe there’s a connection between Benefactors and Noises Off! The former play is a funny-as-a-heart-attack satire on liberal good intentions in postimperial England, the latter a door-slamming farce about a theater troupe touring in a door-slamming farce. Two different sensibilities entirely, it would seem. But Michael Frayn wrote them both, and within a period of a couple of years.
Think of Clouds as the spot where the two Frayns intersect. First mounted in 1976–six years before Noises Off! and eight before Benefactors–Clouds is a door-slamming farce that satirizes liberal good intentions. Two British reporters and an American college professor go on a tour of Cuba’s artificial-fertilizer factories led by a government press attache and an easy-living driver, Hilberto. The junketeers are all lofty ideals at first, talking journalistic ethics and revolutionary solidarity. But the heat and dust wear away their ideological enamel, and soon enough it’s all about making it with the one woman in the party.
Sweet but callow, this production captures neither Frayn’s cynicism nor his sexual slapstick. Sometimes even the sense gets lost as director Devon de Mayo’s storytelling devices fail to register. But the script’s sophisticated outlines can still be discerned, and there are some positive delights–among them Manny Sosa, whose Hilberto is a guitar-playing Latino Buddha.