We were quite impressed by the chilly, understated horrors of Caryl Churchill's futuristic father-and-son(s) play A Number—so much so, in fact, that we numbered Raleigh Ensemble Players' gripping production of it among the region's top shows of 2007. Playmakers Rep opens its 2011 season this week with a one-week revisitation of this psychological drama for its PRC2 second-stage series in Kenan Theatre.
In it, a deceptively avuncular father named Salter tries to comfort—not to mention control—Bernard, his 40-year-old son who's going through an identity crisis. Bernard has just learned that someone made copies of him—clones—when he was 5 years old. They're all out there with their own lives in the world now, although one, as it turns out, lives nearby.
The news torments Bernard with a number of questions. Why do they all exist? What part did his father play in all of this? And what if Bernard, himself, isn't really the original? As Churchill's taut, hour-long script inexorably peels away the cover stories and excuses, the immensity of what's actually taken place keeps expanding.
What happens when a new technology arrives before the ethics and psychological maturity that are required to deal with it? One harrowing answer is here. Guest director Michael Donahue helms a production featuring guest actor Josh Barrett as the troubled son(s) and local legend Ray Dooley as Salter. (Now, that should be worth watching ...) Performances continue through Sunday; tickets run $22.50–$35, or $12.50 with student ID. —Byron Woods