Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Number

Caryl Churchill's A Number is dismissively vague about its plot, its language is built to circumlocate the small scraps of detail the characters are dying for, and it runs under an hour. And yet, every minute is brilliant . . . or at least, it should be. But Clockwork Theatre's revival of this play lacks the necessary nuance, focusing more on the literal science than the literary humanity, and their production comes across as digital rather than analog and certainly far from Swiss in its precision. These short, sharp pinpricks of lines no longer muse on identity ("If that's me over there, who am I?"); instead, they are heavyhanded runs of emotionally dry dialogue. Sean Marrinan practically blubbers onstage, rather than being the cold, distant failure of a father that he needs to be (Salter is a man who finds it easier to put his crying son in a cupboard than to actually comfort him), and this unbalances his partner, Jay Rohloff, who ends up overplaying and rushing through his three versions of Salter's son. Beverly Brumm's direction, like Larry Laslo's boring set design, takes everything literally, and flattens the play, focusing on the science (there are projections of cell division between scenes) rather than on the characters. There are moments when all the gears and cogs spin in alignment, but only a number of them.

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