Island Stage Left’s 2013 season debuts March 21 with “A Number” by British playwright Caryl Churchill.
A Number, written in 2002, uses human cloning as a device to examine a parent’s communication with and alienation from his children. It has been called a psychological thriller, but is more akin to a science fiction tragedy - something that an avant garde playwright like Samuel Beckett might pen for Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.
The “hero” has had a son cloned - apparently more than once - after his wife committed suicide. Much of the play involves the interaction of the father with, and deaths of, the original son and the first clone. All these characters are apparently deeply unhappy, unable to deal with themselves or with each other, inexorably moving toward unhappy ends. As the first three play out their unhappy parts, counterpoint is provided by a third cloned son who is living an apparently happy, fulfilled life as a parent of three children.
Churchill is a prolific English playwright, with almost sixty plays and radio dramas to her name. Her wide variety of plays and her use of language has made her a prominent part of modern English theater. One critic summed up her career: “With each play, she discovers new genres and forms. She then discards them and moves on, opening up possibilities for other playwrights to explore. I think many people writing today don’t even realize they’ve been influenced by her. She’s changed the language of theatre. And very few playwrights do that.”
A Number will be presented free (donations accepted) by Island Stage Left at the San Juan County Fairground from March 21 to April 21. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m.
— Steve Wehrly