note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Sheila Barth
† † Science fiction is fascinating, but even more intriguing when the topic could become reality. Such is the case with Caryl Churchillís one-act, two-person drama, ďA Number,Ē† involving human cloning, appearing at New Repertory Theatre.†
Director Clay Hopper ekes every emotion out of Boston award-winning actors Dale Place and Nael Nacerís portrayals of a distraught father and son - three sons, actually - in Churchillís tale of could-be consequences. The two actors are superb, their raw intensity and impeccable timing, nail-biting.
† Place portrays Salter, a father who years earlier lost his wife and young son,Bernard, he reveals. Salter says he didnít want a new wife, nor a new son, because he thought he had the perfect child, so he claims he submitted the childís DNA material to scientists, to be cloned.
ďYouíre just the way I wanted,Ē Salter tells Bernard 2, soothingly. ďI wanted you, not another child.Ē He never expected the experiment would produce not one, but 20, ďcopiesĒ of the original Bernard,he adds. They may not be alike, either.† In fact, their differences could be startling. He questions whether they should sue the lab.
Churchill inductively, inferentially, leads us into her plot involving genetic exploration, and her characters. We enter an unfurling, emotional roster of love, pain, regret, loss, jealousy, rage, abuse, guilt, and† wonder, in just under an hour. The two men stand on a raised precipice, silhouetted, in the middle of four, imposing illuminated columns that crackle mysteriously.† Mary Ellen Stebbinsí lighting and Phil Schroederís sound effects heighten the Twilight Zone-style aura. †
Award-winning designer Cristina Todescoís set is sparse and stark, with a table and two chairs the actors move during scenes.†
Rapidly changing from a shirt to a jacket or a T-shirt and adjusting his accent, Nacer brilliantly portrays all three sons- Bernard 1, Bernard 2, and Michael Black, who vastly differ from each other.†
Salterís personality changes, too, as he and his beloved son Bernard 2 discuss the fact there are 20 clones of himself. Even worse, he was told heís not Salterís original son, but a copy- one of those 20. Bernardís distraught, devastated, and prophetically wants to avoid any interaction with them.
Salterís secret is darker, more shady, though. We discover the dignified, intelligent Salter perhaps isnít the pillar of parental perfection we surmised.
His first son, Bernard, isnít dead. Heís very much alive. And he deeply resents the love and attention Salter lavishes on good son Bernard 2 - with good reason. We donít see it, but Bernard 1 tells Salter about his meeting with Bernard 2, and itís a killer.
ďA NumberĒ is thrilling drama, a timely piece that dares to breach the precipice of† human identity and creation. Donít miss it. ††
BOX INFO: One-act, 58-minute drama by Caryl Churchill,appearing at New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Artsí Charles Mosesian Theatre, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown, through Nov.1,: Oct. 22,29, at 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 23,24,30,31, at 8 p.m.; matinees, Oct. 25,29,Nov. 1, at 2 p.m.,Oct. 24,31, at 3 p.m., Tickets, $30-$60. Check for talkbacks. Visit newrep.org or call 617-923-8487.†