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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

A Number at ACT Theatre

A Number
Peter Crook (times three) and Kevin Tighe (front)
My exposure to the works of celebrated British playwright Caryl Churchill is limited to the extraordinary Cloud Nine, a comic yet haunting play which is certainly her best known work on this side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, I can't summon up much positive to say about her short but tedious 2002 play A Number, currently at ACT Theatre. Veteran Seattle director John Kazanjian has mounted a perfectly respectable and well-cast production, but with scant results.

A rumination on the effects and consequences of human cloning, A Number deals with a man named Bernard who learns that not only is he a clone, but that his father, Salter, has likely had a hand in it. In the course of the play's running time we meet two other clones, each as different from Bernard emotionally as they are alike physically. Salter's story changes, and painful truths are revealed through the rapid-fire dialogue, but not for one single moment did I care about any of the characters. Churchill is clearly an author of intelligence, imagination and wit, but none of these virtues make up for the lack of feeling she has endowed these characters with.

Director Kazanjian keeps the play moving and generally guides his duo of actors through the turbulent waters of the playwright's rapid fire, and often cut-off in mid-sentence, dialogue successfully. In the role of Salter, stage and television staple Kevin Tighe is convincing as a man now facing his twilight years with at least some modicum of repentance to the cold-blooded actions of his earlier life. As the three rather unorthodox "sons," Peter Crook carefully and rather brilliantly crafts portraits of a trio of men whose emotional makeup is as different as their appearance is identical.

It is quite possible that I will be in the minority in my negative assessment of Churchill's play. It is certainly not run of the mill fare, and it is clearly the work of an author with an inventive and creative mind. However, as for being a fan of A Number, count me out.

A Number runs through October 1, 2006 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street in downtown Seattle. Visit www.acttheatre.org for more information.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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