note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi
Salter Ö Steve McConnell
Bernard; Bernard; Michael Black Ö Lewis D. Wheeler
Caryl Churchillís A NUMBER is an intriguing sixty-five minutes: Salter, a middle-aged Englishman, and his grown son Bernard, discuss the fact that Bernard is a genetic clone of a deceased firstborn and that, unbeknownst to Salter, the cloning scientists didnít stop at one facsimile but duplicated nearly two dozen; thus, there are numerous Bernards roaming the earth. The elder Bernard shows up, not at all deceased and with murderous designs on his successor; a third Bernard christened ďMichael BlackĒ closes the hour on an ironic note. Since things are different at the end of A NUMBER than they are at the beginning, one would assume that all the cerebral-talk and those constantly interrupted sentences are leading somewhere. They are --- but your attention mustnít wander for an instant.
The Lyric Stage production runs like clockwork, swift and smooth, with Steve McConnell as Salter and Lewis D. Wheeler as My Three Sons nimbly bouncing their words about; if only director Spiro Veloudos could have slowed down the pace and let A NUMBER flush with occasional life --- the Brits canít be that clipped-and-dried, twenty-four/seven (remember what I scribbled not too long ago, that words are the results of what lies beneath the surface, not sounds to be taken at face value). It was fitting to cast Mr. Wheeler as the Bernards as he himself has succeeded another Young Man who has quit the Boston scene; this has been Mr. Wheelerís year and he has been charming, each time --- never underestimate the power of charm on a stage --- whether he shall deepen in his art or become a pleasant Personality depends on how he is cast and directed for his technique thus far consists of emptying his pockets and happily displaying their contents for your enjoyment; hopefully he will learn more than timing from playing opposite Mr. McConnell, a subtle, layered actor who pulls out only those stops that are necessary to convey Salterís confusion, anguish and eventual loss; Mr. Wheeler contributes three memorable turns but Mr. McConnell is the hub around which they revolve.