Opening Nights: The Clouds

Or, The Real Housewives of Ancient Greece.

Ghost Light's ribald, overstuffed adaptation of Aristophanes' original takes place in the tawdry realm of reality TV. There, the ratings are perilously slipping for aging Blonde Bitch star Stephanie Stophanes (Kristina Sutherland, brilliantly channeling any number of Real Housewives). To forestall creditors and maintain her Gawd-given right to remain drunk at her poolside, she follows a series of recipes for success drawn from—where else?—basic cable. Among the blizzard of schemes: trying to get her 16-year-old nerd-genius daughter (Kelsey Yuhara) to star in a series called Screw Til You Get Pregnant; consulting a string of experts (including a fake Brit called Nanny Beatrix); and seeking a complete tuck-over for her sags. Inspired by a painfully bad infomercial, Steph matriculates in the Socrates School for Life Skills, taught by the philosopher himself (a slovenly, rather one-note Raymond L. Williams). Writer/director Alexis Holzer's vision for the piece is, overall, crowded, silly, mordant, and fairly effective. For structure, there's Steph's quest—not for knowledge, wisdom, or self-awareness, but for money as the best defense against doing actual work. For entertainment, there are gratuitous skits (an audience fave is the multiply inseminated woman whose growling refrain "Gimme more babies!" seems to emanate straight from Hades). For our edification, perhaps because he's yet unzombified by television, the earnest Socrates character falls flat. Lines like "You can't train someone for a reality show, that's the opposite of reality" are about as fun as hemlock. Amid this parade of fools, Steph greets every lesson and indignity with the same refrain: "I don't get it." Much as reality programming was invented to provide cheap entertainment, so was this clever but endlessly sprawling show. Like its small-screen cousins, The Clouds seems to breeze on forever.

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