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A Number

a Drama
CATEGORY :
by Caryl Churchill

COMPANY : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 1416

SHOWING : October 13, 2005 - November 06, 2005

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A Father and Son meet and talk. The son may or may noth be one of a number of clones. Does that make him any less of a person than his "Brothers" or even his "Father?"


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Theme and Variations
by Dedalus
Thursday, November 3, 2005
4.0
The first thing that strikes you as you enter 7 Stages Back Stage Theatre for Caryl Churchill’s “A Number” is how difficult it is to take a seat. A tiny pillbox of a set is surrounded by four stadium sections that require circuitous climbing and falling to reach almost any seat.

The second thing that strikes you as you watch “A Number” is how well-written it is. In each of five scenes two characters square off and talk about self and duty and loss and what should be excruciatingly dull philosophical moralizing, but which, instead, comes across as casual conversation between Father and Son (“Son” being a relative term, of course).

The third thing that strikes you as you watch “A Number” is how it subverts any preconceived notion you may have about cloning. Are clones copies or independent variations on a theme? Is the process of cloning a desperate shout of ego expression, or the desperate grasp of a desperately grieving parent? Which is the defining root of self, nature or nurture? Is the loss of a clone any less shattering than the loss of an “original?”

The fourth thing that strikes you as you watch “A Number” is how words define a scene; how theatre is, after all, a war of words; how words can tell us more about a character than they know themselves; how a playwright at the peak of her powers can set a scene, define a character, set up a conflict, and make a point with the most seemingly banal (and exposition-less) of conversations.

The fifth thing that strikes you as you watch “A Number” is how two people with the same DNA can be polar opposites, which leads to the realization that two theatres producing the same script can be radically different, which leads to the realization that two people seeing the same production can have similar reactions or opposite reactions or reactions anywhere along a spectrum between the two poles.

One Set. Two Actors. X Characters. One Script. One Hour.

Can Life be any fuller?


*********************


One thing that strikes you as you enter 7 Stages Back Stage Theatre for Caryl Churchill’s “A Number” is how difficult it is to take a seat. Is a point being made, or is it accidental design?

Another thing that strikes you as you watch “A Number” is how well-written it is. In each of five scenes a Father and Son talk about their history, about their mistakes, about their losses. One Father and Three Sons, all of whom may or may not be identical.

“A Number” also subverts any preconceived notion you may have about cloning. An anonymous writer on a lobby discussion poster asks if Science replaces God, what will people of faith believe in? Can the self be that weak?

“A Number” shows more than any other play is how words define a scene; how words can tell us more about a character than they know themselves. Caryl Churchill is a playwright at the peak of her powers, and she can set a scene, define a character, set up a conflict, and make a point without the contrivances of exposition.

If you don’t mind an intellectual stretch, here, “A Number can lead to the realization that two theatres producing the same script can be radically different. Similarly, two people seeing the same production can have similar reactions or opposite reactions or reactions anywhere along a spectrum between two poles. Or how one viewer can be ambivalent enough to have two co-existing, yet opposite reactions.

One Set. Two Actors. 4 (?) Characters. Five Scenes. One Hour. Why doesn’t it seem enough?


-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
6, 7, 8 . . . by jpmist
I would add a few more things. . .

John Benzinger did some really fine acting. His multiple characters were as distinct as they needed to be and I bought into all of em

Joe Gfaller did some really fine blocking. The set was about 10X14 or so and moving two actors around that for an hour must have been challenging.

Larry Larson did some fine acting too. Both were connected to each quite solidly thruout.

****Spoilers follow****

What I liked about the play were the social ramifications of cloning your own son, but after having explored some of those I had no more insight into the father's character, or his motivation to clone his son when it was over than I did when it started. I never got a sense of progression with the father's story or maybe I just missed it. . .
Good Points All by Dedalus
I definitely agree about the performances and directions. Sometimes, I try to be too clever for my own good -- since I knew I wanted to "clone" my review, I had to keep it short, which means I concentrated on the play rather than the performances.

As to whether "father" has an arc or not, I suspect that's beside the point. Ms. Churchill's plays are usually about words and ideas more than character -- characters change only insofar as that change contributes to the ideas being examined. In this case, I did see some change in "Father" -- I thought Mr. Larson showed real sadness at the loss of his "son," and his attitudes in the last scene were much less calculated than in the first. It remains unclear how much of his dialog can be believed -- he lies to his "sons" continuously -- but, I believe his reactions and attitudes reflected a change (not necessarily a growth), that shows a glimmer of what the "truth" may have been. I'm sure I'm reading stuff into this that was not scripted, but I'm not sure this change wasn't planned by Actor and Director.

Brad


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