Monday, July 02, 2007

"A Number" - One Hour of Exacting Theater

TheaterWorks' production of "A Number," by Caryl Churchill, snags the viewer at moment number one of the hour long play. Running through July 29th at the Off Broadway style Hartford Theater, it's a taut, relevant, highly charged piece about cloning and its implications. Less, in this case, adds up to much, much more.

Steve Campo directs the play which finds actor Edmond Genest as Salter (the father) in conversation with "some" of his sons. Mark Saturno takes the stage initially as Son #2, who appears to be normal enough: he wears glasses, engages in discussion with his father. This son had thought his mother died when he was born. He now discovers this is not the case. Rather, he was the clone of an older son. The stage goes dark and actor Saturno returns as the first Bernard, a scary low-life type who is unkempt and furious. We learn that this Bernard was, in a sense, tossed away and became the original from which clones were produced. No fun. No wonder he's a negative piece of work. Finally, the third son (Saturno's transformations are stunning), wearing a V-neck sweater, smiling from ear to ear, greets his father. This son is too cheerful to be true. Genest, as the father, adapts.

Adrian W. Jones' set includes: a table, couple of chairs, walls, a window -- and a thrust stage. This is a home? These are lives?

At the outset, "A Number" is not only complicated but a bit convoluted. The script challenges the theatergoer to interpret and analyze - all to the good. Thematically, the material is undeniably unsettling. Salter is vexed, upset, in turmoil. It's a multi-layered play, examining ethics and morals.

The actors are superb. Saturno captures three characters, moving from one to another in a flash. Genest wears the pain incurred through his life choices visibly.

Churchill writes with precision and urgency. This is "A Number."
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