Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Number (Dobama)


Dobama is on a roll. Earlier this season they presented a brilliant version of ‘THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA.’ They have followed this up with an equally compelling production of Caryl Churchill’s ‘A NUMBER.’ a drama about a father and his cloned sons. Yes, cloned SONS!

Caryl Churchill, the author of ‘FAR AWAY,’ ‘SERIOUS MONEY,’ and ‘CLOUD NINE’ has been called “the most daring of our dramatists.” ‘A NUMBER,’ her latest play, was described by a London reviewer as a “moving, thought-provoking, and dramatically thrilling” play.
Believe me, this time you can believe the reviewer.

The setting is modern, the concept even more modern. As ‘A NUMBER’ begins, a son confronts his father with the startling information that he has genetically identical counterparts and is merely one of “a number.” Churchill spends the next hour pondering, in spooky fashion, the wild issue of assembly-line reproduction. She uses the concept of cloning and multiple representations to open a thought-provoking inquiry into morality, nature versus nurture, and the nature of love.

There are many questions in this play, such as: Why was the young man cloned? Are he and the other “numbers,” though genetically the same, similar, different because of their upbringing? And, if one of the clones is mentally disoriented, are all of the ‘numbers’ mental misfits?

The play has been exquisitely mounted by director Sonya Robbins. She has a clear concept of the work and takes her audience on a soaring ride of emotions. Her actors display total clarity about who they are and what they have to do to mesmerize the audience. She has paced the production well and created just the right tensions.

Joel Hammer gives yet another award winning performance as the father who, at first is reluctant to discuss what he has done and his motives. Hammer perfectly walks the fine line between drama and melodrama with careful finesse.

Todd Krispinsky is known as one of the most creative scenic designers in the area. He again creates a shockingly spare and effective setting for this play, drawing all the attention to the performances by having the wooden angles of the set all point toward the center of the action. We also experience Krispinsky in an additional light...outstanding actor. Portraying 3 different people, all of whom, of course look exactly alike, he makes a clear physical, vocal and emotional character of each. Even if Esther Montgomery’s costumes hadn’t so clearly separated each of the clones, Krispinsky’s acting finesse would have made the distinctions clear. This is an amazing performance.

Do not get the idea that this is an abstract and overly dramatic play. It’s not. Churchill approaches the matter as both grave and comic.

If you are wondering, we do learn which one is the"real" son and which ones are Memorex.

Capsule Judgment Dobama’s ‘A NUMBER’ is a perfect follow-up to ‘THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA.’ It is a MUST SEE!