It occurred to me as I watched Caryl Churchill's futuristic, dystopic voyage into the world of structural genome projects, that one thing the contemporary theatre owes to the proliferation of fringe theatre festivals internationally is that it has given us back the one-act play as a legitimate art form worthy of consideration. Many fringers lay down a criterion that prescribes a no more than 50-60 minute time frame for productions. Beyond that, you can pretty much do what you want - big cast, little cast, straight drama, musical, etc. Sometimes a piece catches on and the playwright goes on and tries to find a second act. Sometimes a piece clocks in at about an hour and it just is what it is and we're all fine and quite accepting with that.
Such is the case with Caryl Churchill's play that is as short in time as it is long on ideas. The day after having seen it I was having lunch with a group of people that included a physician who had run a major research lab at a university. I asked her about the premise of Churchill's play which involves the subject of human cloning. She replied succinctly: "If scientists think they can accomplish it successfully, eventually they will do it." This is the bioethical problem a man named Salter (Gary Reineke) faces after he gives permission to have his son cloned. Instead of just one replica of a son that was put through on the purchase order, it seems that a number of them were produced. How many?
"I don't know" says Salter. "A number - maybe several, or twenty maybe, or more...I'm not sure." It seems the company thought they might make a few extra bucks by turning out a few knock-offs. Only a few of them turned into pretty nasty pieces of work. This is where the fun of the acting comes in as Shawn Doyle gets to play the sincerely concerned and questioning role of Bernard at age 40 and age 35 as well as his evil twin Michael Black. This Jekyll and Hyde scenario (or if you will, Golum and his alter ego), gives Doyle plenty of room to maneuver and he does so very successfully. Gary Reineke is less successful and seemed as though he was still struggling with the lines on opening night.
David Storch's face-off approach to the staging aided by Robin Fischer's lateral set (consisting basically of two chairs facing each other), contributes to the plays debate format in this verbal tennis match of nature versus nurture.