Theater

Identity Axiom

A Bite-Sized Play About Cloning

Cloning technology may be complex, but the questions raised by cloning are elemental. In the context of genetic reduplication, "who am I?" and "why am I here?" take on a painfully literal significance. Metaphysical anxiety is rendered so obvious as to be almost banal. If I'm the original, do I have some sort of ontological privilege over my copies? If I'm a copy, how do I reconcile this knowledge with the conviction that I am special, that I am chosen, that I am unique? Am I a son of Adam and Eve, or a descendent of Dolly the sheep?

In Caryl Churchill's schematic, hour-long play A Number, answers are trotted out almost as quickly as the questions are asked. The original should destroy the copies. The original should sue the copies. The copy should worry. The copy should run away, pretend that it is still possible to be unique. (I should mention that these hypotheses are played by actors—Kevin Tighe as a father and Peter Crook as several sons—who trip over Churchill's free-verse nursery rhyme but expend quite a lot of effort to prove that concepts are people, too.) Intentionally insufficient solutions dispatched with, the play swiftly moves to familiar family drama—classical tragedy by way of biology class. For once and for all, is it nature or nurture? Who creates monsters? Is it cool or uncool to lock your toddler in a cupboard while you go on a bender? Does God allow do-overs?

Director John Kazanjian deploys the actors on a round stage that looks like a lazy Susan. I couldn't help imagining the characters as condiments, dollop-sized ideas for us to sample. The portions are meager enough.

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