From the C-T
Review: “A Number” is dynamite drama
The small, downtown North Carolina Stage Company's house is usually configured as a thrust stage, with audience on three sides. When deciding to do Caryl Churchill's quite unusual and riveting script “A Number,” director Ron Bashford chose to reconfigure the conventional stage into theater-in-the-round by adding a row of seats at the back of the customary 'stage.'
This logistical discussion is a conscious and blatant ploy to avoid any revelation of the astonishing plot. It's all about the emergence of a longheld family secret involving a single-parent father and three - or more - sons. And, therein is the secret. Out of consideration for future audiences, we'll avoid a discussion of the startling script, thus revealing the big surprises in store for those who get to see this intriguing show.
The power of this plot is strong enough to rely on fine acting, alone. The set is simply an oval, tiled floor. No backdrop nor decoration. The scenery, as created by Don Baker, is only two stylized chairs and a patio chair-side table. No props needed. Clothing, not costumes, conceived by Deborah Austin, appears so comfortable and unconscious that it could it could be from each actors own closet, although most is not.
Even the lighting by Sarah Elliott is monochromatically off-white, and the sound design by Hans Meyer is tuneless and without melody, but effectively creates or sustains a feeling, a mood and an aural context. It's all very simple, basic, essential to the complexity of this challenging story-line.
Okay, it's the writing and the acting that carry the show – and carry it a long distance, indeed. It's performed all within an intense, condensed, concentrated and distilled hour and ten minutes, without intermission. And the acting is done by two awesome actors. Graham Smith, a mainstay of the Charlotte area stage, portrays Salter, a single father, and NCSC co-founder Charles McIver creates his several sons. The sons are identified in the program by names and ages. But that only complicates the story. Go figure.
British-Canadian playwright Churchill's “A Number” is a dynamite drama. It's not light entertainment, but solid and significant stuff that will send you away thinking about science and identity, ethics and moral inquiry. And thinking far into the night, for sure.
Jim Cavener reviews theater for take5.
21 April 2009
From the C-T