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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 4:19 am | Mostly Cloudy 53º


Gerald Carpenter: Center Stage Theater Takes ‘A Number’

Genesis West will present the Caryl Churchill play Friday through Sunday

This weekend, the Center Stage Theater at the Paseo Nuevo mall will house the second production in Santa Barbara this month of a play by British playwright Caryl Churchill.

Genesis West will present Churchill’s 2002 play, A Number, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The play is directed by Maurice Lord and stars Brian Harwell and Tom Hinshaw with lighting and design by Ted Dolas, costumes by Ellen Shepard, and music and design by Parry Grip.

A week ago, the UCSB Theater Department’s production of Churchill’s Cloud Nine ended its two-week run. There was apparently no signed agreement between UCSB and Genesis West to stage a Churchill festival — the timing seems to be a matter of odd coincidence. But clearly Churchill is in the air.

Churchill is a dramatist of sociological themes and trends, and her characters tend to be embodiments of those themes and trends, rather than unique individuals possessed of independent wills. The theme of A Number is human cloning, and it appeared when the first experiments in animal cloning — remember Dolly the cloned sheep? — were very much in the news.

There are four characters in A Number — a man and his three sons, two of the latter being clones of the other. One actor plays the father; the other actor plays the three sons. Neat.

The question of personal identity takes on several new dimensions in the play. The clones learn that they are clones when they are middle-aged men. Who are they, then — identical copies of the original son, or distinct individuals?

The question and the premise of the play remind me of a line from the late, great novelist Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi’s Honor, who at the outset of his career invented an apocryphal volume called The Keener’s Manual and used quotes from the nonexistent book for the epigraphs and usually the titles of all his subsequent novels. The line I’m thinking of, which contains the title of the book it fronts, is, “My Lord surrounded me with an infinity of mirrors, which repeat my image again and again.”

Tickets to A Number are $25 for general admission and $20 for students. Call the Center Stage Theater box office at 805.963.0408 to purchase by phone with a Visa or Mastercard, or click here to order online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer.

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