As director of Caryl Churchill's play, A Number, the ever-charming Richard Klautsch gave the introduction on the play's opening night at Boise Contemporary Theater. He self-effacingly described the director's role as best done by staying out of the actors' way. Klautsch then proceeded to give credit to everyone involved in the project, notably to the lighting designer, Rick Martin, and deservedly so. The lighting is pivotal to the timing of the scenes, like true filtered sun shining through the venetian shades at varying angles with each new scene opening.
The venetian shades hang in the living room of Salter, a father, played by Aled Davies. As Salter, Davies is on stage for the entire play, gamely acting his way from denial to truth and consequences. Salter becomes obsessed with the aftermath of an unseemly deed from his past. When his previously adorable little boy becomes increasingly inconsolable, screaming into the night for comfort, Salter shuts the screams out, sometimes even leaving the house or just numbing himself with alcohol. The audience learns through dialogue between this now-adult son, played by Matthew Cameron Clark, that Salter even went so far as to put his son in a cupboard, a fact Salter seems bizarrely eager to relate. The son now hates his father and asks again and again about his unheeded screams for comfort as a child. (In one scene, it's revealed that the boy eventually found comfort with the dust bunnies under his bed, where he preferred to stay.)
Coming out of a two-year stupor, it dawns on Salter that he could turn this weird demanding child in for a new model and get back the adorable child he'd had before. Though this thought has probably crossed several parents' minds when their young children begin to assert wills of their own, Salter actually acts on it and arranges to have his son cloned. In this way, he believes he can start over--and maybe not drink or neglect and cupboard the newer model. Later in conversation with the adult cloned son, Salter hears that this son is alarmed and scared, having learned that he is a clone of a first son. Salter's response to both of his sons is an almost-amusing cloned response of this age: "I wonder if we can sue? ... I think there's money to be made out of this."
In the final scene, Salter meets with yet another clone of his original son, this one raised under entirely different conditions and the results are ... well, go see the play.
A Number is a tight drama terrifically acted by Davies and Clark. Clark plays all three sons with artful nuance, depicting the differences that nurture can produce, versus simply what exact genetic coding might yield. The play is just an hour in length with non-stop dialogue exploring the essence of what it is that makes a human being an individual.
A Number, by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Richard Klautsch at Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St. Shows Thur.-Sat. through May 6. Evening shows at 8 p.m., Sat. matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets $12-$28.50, available by calling 442-3232 or at www.ictickets.com.