A Number

San Francisco, CA
American Conservatory Theater

A Numbera number by Caryl Churchill

It’s not about cloning!

It’s about a father and 20 sons, 19 of whom who were cloned in a desperate do-over attempt at parenting by a drunken, failing father whose wife had committed suicide and left her husband and their two-year-old son.

It’s about intense dialog tensing between the father and sons 30-some years later. 

It’s about nature vs. nurture (or lack thereof).

It’s about men — the only two actors are male, and the story unfolds in the very male den of the father (Bill Smitrovich as Salter). All of the three sons we see on stage (only one of whom is on stage at any given time) are played by  the same actor, Josh Charles.

It’s a tense, fascinating tragedy that raises questions quickly, without mercy, and without answer. The running time of 55 minutes obscures the potential for emotional exhaustion. It’s quick, but brutal. I left the theater with my mind swirling with the needs and possibilities of the characters I’d seen.

ACT’s West Coast premier of British playwrite Caryl Churchill’s one-act shot was excellent when I saw it, increased in quality as I thought about it during the audience exchange after the performance, and became down-right wonderful as reviewed it on the ride home.

The two actors deliver the not-quite-real conversation clearly, straight-forwardly, and without chewing scenery or telegraphing the Meaning behind any subtlety.  They are a gift that lets the author’s words do their work. 

The set is a bit obvious, but reinforcing the of the characters. The other technical areas are happily unobtrusive, just as they should be in a thought piece like this.

A Number closes May 28,… but there is still time and choices of seats left.

Ozdachs rating:  4.5 Syntaxes out of 5

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3 Responses to A Number

  1. fyellin says:


    Were you at the Saturday matinee, too? Sorry we missed you.

    • ozdachs says:

      Re: Numbers

      Yep, we were in C111 and 112 — last-minute tickets we were able to get through a friend that works for ACT. We were in the first row at the talk-back.

  2. billeyler says:

    “Cloud 9” is still imbedded in my psyche even though it’s been over 20 years since I’ve seen it in Albuquerque. Looking forward to this one!

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