A Number Thought Provoking Theatre


What is truth? Is there truth? Ask the Bernards and Michael and Salter in Caryl Churchill’s haunting A Number, the current offering at Cygnet. The short play, 62 intermissionless minutes, explores cloning and much, much more.

Salter (D. W. Jacobs) visits with his three sons, Bernard One and Two and Michael Black (Francis Gercke). Salter’s relationship to his three sons, two cloned from Bernard One, is, in reality, a trial conducted by the three.

Bernard One, the original, is aggressive, highly combative. He hates Bernard Two. Every word, every action bespeaks of anger. Barnard Two is confused and nervous. His dialog is in words, bits of phrases and never in complete, coherent sentences. Both have been raised by their father. He did a very bad job raising Bernard One and only a somewhat better job raising Bernard Two.

Michael Black was raised by different parents. He has a sunny disposition but appears to lack basic intelligence. Thus, raising the question of which is the major factor in shaping the individual, genetics or environment.

Gercke, with simple costume changes, completely assumes the totality of each of the three brothers. His Bernard One is somebody you definitely would not want to meet on a darkened street. His Bernard Two is almost non-communitive, a strange lad who tries but doesn’t always succeed. Finally, Michael Black seems almost vacuous.

Jacobs’ guilt-ridden father is the brunt of violent accusations, semi-intelligible dialog, and bland comments. His reactions to each are an excellent study. One begins to wonder about the veracity of his comments to his three sons.

As the revelations pour forth, we begin to question more and more what is truth and what is fiction. Someone mentioned that this one-act play is really two acts. The second act being the ride home when discussing the play and searching for the truth. Then, of course, there is the potential discussion about cloning and how really close society is to actually doing it. A Number is just over an hour of excellence in acting with enough discussion points to keep conversation going for several hours.

Cast: D. W. Jacobs, Francis Gercke

Technical Staff: Lighting Design Matthew Novotny, Scenic Design Jungah Han, Sound Design George Ye, Costume Design Veronica Murphy, SM Rosalee Barrientos

Total Rating: Three stars

Dates: Thursday to Sunday, thru June 29, 2008

Genre: Drama

Author: Caryl Churchill

Director: Esther Emery

Date Reviewed: May 31, 2008

Dates: Thursday to Sunday, May 31 thru June 29, 2008

Running Time: 62 minutes

Cygnet Theatre

6663 El Cajon Blvd, Suite N

San Diego, CA

Phone: 619 337-1525 Ext 3

Edress: cygnettheatre.com

Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.