Gabriel Marin, James Carpenter. Photos by:
A Number at Center REP Theatre
Gabriel Marin, James Carpenter. Photos by:

Center REPertory Company’s presents Caryl Churchill’s stunning play A Number, from January 21st through February 7th, 2010. Directed by Michael Butler, A Number is part of Center REP’s special Off-Center offering in the Knight Stage 3.

What if you suddenly found out you were a clone? What would you do if you had cloned a child 35 years earlier, and now the past is coming to call with some very tough questions? What if you suddenly found out that your father had cloned you at age four before putting you up for adoption? These are just some of the questions that spark this Caryl Churchill masterpiece. Some consider her the world’s greatest living playwright and her latest play A Number, the first true masterpiece of the 21st century.

“Off-Center is a new program of Center REP,” says Artistic Director Michael Butler, “in response to our growing number of patrons who want high quality professional productions of newer work, more challenging work, or work that simply is better suited to the intimacy of a black box theatre – great plays, with great actors, up close.”

“I’m especially excited to inaugurate Off Center with Caryl Churchill’s: A Number. Ms. Churchill is one of our most adventurous and startling playwrights. She has a breathtaking ability to explore large ideas with an arresting spareness, and at the same time, tell a compelling, original story, “ says Michael Butler.

A Number takes us into the possible near future, and explores the consequences of cloning. In the show, a father must deal with the long-term consequences of having several cloned sons.

A Number is written by the great British playwright Caryl Churchill, who is known for her satirical, genre-bending, non-naturalistic plays that explore current events and challenging themes: sexual politics, financial world excesses, and the ecology. A Number takes us on another modernist, ethical meditation on what the future might hold. “No one in the theatre has really touched on this kind of subject matter,” says Butler, who is also directing. “The play,” he says, presents a “a very exciting, wonderfully creepy, scary spooky idea of actually cloning human beings.”

The play is only a taut 60 minutes long, but that’s all the time Churchill needs to introduce the moral quandaries of replicating DNA.

This production has been called “the first true play of the 21st century.” It matter-of-factly discusses the possible future results of scientific advances that the average person might not even be aware of. The play ultimately has, as Butler puts it, “the aura of a sci-fi movie, the tension of a murder mystery but all the thought-provoking interest of an ethical drama.”

Not something you would normally see off the movie screen, let alone on a big stage, like the Lesher’s Hoffman, with its massive audience capacity. For that reason, A Number will be performed in the smaller Knight Stage 3 Theatre, a black box that seats only 133 people.

The play also features only two actors—Bay Area stage veterans James Carpenter, who has appeared in Center REP’s The Mousetrap—and Gabriel Marin of Center REP’s Tuesdays with Morrie. The stage, likewise, has a minimalist design, and keeps things simple when it comes to costumes.

“You get to focus on the essentials: great actors and great material,” Butler says, “And with Jim and Gabe, we’re talking about a very high level of skill and accomplishment. These guys are Jedis!”

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