Journal of the San Juan Islands


By the ‘Number’

March 26, 2013 · Updated 1:09 PM

Daniel Mays, right, and Erik Gratton, left, star in Island Stage Left’s production of “A Number” by playwright Caryl Churchill. / Contributed photo / John Sinclair

Island Stage Left’s current production, “A Number” by British playwright Caryl Churchill, is quite different from previous offerings of the local company, according to co-founder and director Helen Machin-Smith.

Not difficult for the audience to grasp, perhaps, but difficult to stage, since there are no stage directions and the dialogue has no punctuation.

A Number, written in 2002, uses human cloning as a device to examine a parent’s communication with, love for, and alienation from his children. It has been called a psychological thriller, but may be more akin to something an avant garde playwright like Samuel Beckett might pen for Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

The “hero” (“Salter,” played by Daniel Mays) has had a son cloned — more than once — after his wife’s suicide. Much of the play involves the interaction of the father with the original son and the first clone (both played by Erik Gratton). As the first three play out their unhappy parts, counterpoint is provided by a third cloned son (also played by Gratton) who lives an apparently happy, fulfilled life as a parent of three children.

Machin-Smith thinks a line from German “storm and stress” poet/playwright Friedrich Schiller gives insight into the drama: “It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.”

“A Number” will, as always, be presented free (donations accepted) by Island Stage Left at the San Juan County Fairground from March 21 to April 21. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m.

— Steve Wehrly


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