A Number

Sam Tsoutsouvas and Craig Baldwin
If you're planning to see A Number at the Public Theatre and you want to go in cold, read no further than this paragraph. It's impossible to offer much of a review of this play without spoiling plot points that are more fun to witness in person. I'll just cover the qualitative things up front before I run you off: the play is compelling and though-provoking; the cast of two, Sam Tsoutsouvas and Craig Baldwin, is very good; Beowulf Boritt's set sets the perfect atmosphere. And a word of advice: you would do well to arrange for coffee or a cocktail afterward with your fellow theatregoers because the (rather abrupt) ending of the play is only the beginning of your exploration into what has happened and what it all means. Enjoy!

Now, for those who don't mind being spoiled (though I won't give it all away), A Number concerns a father and his sons. Well, a father, his son and the clones of his son. We meet three young men, but we don't really know which is the son and which are clones (don't feel bad - they don't know either) ... and they aren't the only ones that exist (they're only three of "a number"). The father, Salter, offers some explanation, but his word isn't very good (Tsoutsouvas is great at playing evasive). And, though we know clones are identical, these three sons are not completely identical. Is it the effect of nurture over nature? Baldwin does a nice job transitioning from one "brother" to the other, aided by slight costume changes. One son feels threatened by one of the others ... and how genuine that fear must be, when it's a fear of what he himself would do. Salter doesn't quite know how to reassure his sons, but he wants what all parents want - for their children to be happy.

The production is just about as short as this review - the 70 minutes fly by and we're left wanting more, but in post-performance discussion, with others or ourselves, we find that it's just right. Churchill provides dialogue that is Mamet-like and must be choreographed perfectly to resemble any kind of natural speech - these actors were almost there on press night.

Caryl Churchill's A Number continues at the O'Reilly Theater through April 6, 2008. For performance and ticket information, call 412-316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org or the box office.

Photo: Ric Evans

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