Theatre Review: A Number with People’s Light

People’s Light Presents a Stunning Production of A Number

 

For forty-four seasons People’s Light and Theater Company has provided outstanding theater for the Philadelphia and suburbs.  They have proffered a varied and often exquisite productions.  They quickly developed a stellar repertory company with many of their actors being sought by surrounding professional theaters and films produced locally.

Photos by Paola Nogueras

Several decades ago they began to recruit, however sparingly, actors with familiar Broadway, television, and film credits, David Strathairn has performed here several times.  For A Number by Caryl Churchill, People’s Light has found two very experienced actors to make this thoughtful play come alive for the audience.

John Dossett (Salter) has 17 Broadway credits on his resume.  Most notably a Tony nomination for Gypsy with Bernadette Peters.  His co-star is Nathan Darrow (Bernard, Bernard, Michael). He has had significant roles in House of Cards, Billions, and The Wizard of Lies. Both seasoned veterans are making their People’s Light debuts.

Caryl Churchill is one Britain’s finest playwrights.  She explores the envelope with her plays playing not only with plot, but also with language.  She is equally entertaining and thought provoking.  She garnishes her work with humor that is all the funnier because it comes sparingly.

A Number is about a young man who discovers that there are multiple clones of him in the world.  Bernard begins the play quizzing his father, Salter as to how that might have happened.  The opening scene provides the necessary exposition for   audience to realize that something has happened to cause these clones.  We are also introduced to the father-son dialogue that is the structure of the play.  This is difficult for actors which is why the performances are so impressive.  Salter must face three of the clones he helped to create.   The play evolves into a cross between a Michael Crichton science mystery and an investigation of nature versus nurture.

Nathan Darrow is magnificent handling the three clones.  He keeps them clearly delineated, but also very interesting.  John Dossett as the father may be even more impressive.  He is the same character, but his relationship with each of the clones has its own uniqueness.  I believe that may be an even more daunting challenge.  They both also handle the stylized dialogue that often reminds one of Mamet.  It is highly appropriate for this play.

Director Eliza Baldi keeps the play crisp without racing.  It is beautifully paced.  She gives her actors the freedom to create and the audience is the richer for it.  She is aided by Andrew Moredyk’s simple, but effective set, Amith Chandrashaker’s subtle lighting design, Robert Kaplowitz’s sound which features some lovely cello pieces between scenes, and Marla J. Jurglanis’s appropriate costuming.

 

A Number is about 65 minutes with no intermission, but it may be the most riveting hour you spend.  A Number runs until June 9th in the Leonard C. Haas Stage.  For information and tickets call 610.644.3500 or visit their website http://www.peopleslight.org

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