PURE ensemble member David Mandel flows between personae in this
performance of Caryl Churchill’s A Number. He shrugs one set of
mannerisms off and dons the next with a ritual changing of shirts in the
spaces in-between the scenes. More, he does so with an apparent natural
ease.

The characters he plays are variations on a theme; separate expressions
of identical genetic material, clones and the real boy from whom they
were scraped. The play is an exploration of the relationship between
father and son — or rather sons — and the slow unfolding of past
experience through memories batted back and forth across a dining room
table.

The question on the table is common to all of us: had we the chance to
do it all over again, would we become different people or would blood
win out in the end?

Salter, played by College of Charleston theatre professor Mark Landis,
obtained through science the chance to try again with his son. At some
point in his past, he elected to have the boy duplicated and tried to be
a better father to the copy than he was to the original. Along the way,
he seeded lies in the mind of his newly-made son, fiction that made the
past prettier, and it is only upon confrontation that the truth begins
to show through the cracks.

He wanted things to seem simple for the child. But sweeping
inconvenient truths underneath the carpet only leads to control being
torn from one’s hands down the road.

Slightly stiff in the beginning – this is the character he is playing,
a man whose wall of untruths is coming undone — Landis gives a striking
performance as a man reduced to probing for answers and grasping at ghosts.

The variables are too numerous and even the right questions to ask
remain elusive.

A NUMBER • Piccolo Spoleto • $15, $12 seniors/students • May 30 at 8
p.m.; May 27, 29, June 1, 4 at 6 p.m.; May 28, June 2, 3 at 9 p.m.; June
6, 8 at 5 p.m. • • PURE Theatre • The Cigar Factory, 701 East Bay St. •
554-6060