The Actors' Group will present its 16th production, "A Number" by Caryl Churchill, which opens June 20. This provocative drama by one of England's foremost playwrights will run for five nights at 7:30 p.m. June 20 to 22, 27 and 28, at the Public Art Academy space, 217 W. Fourth St.
"A Number" was written in 2002 when the possibility of cloning had suddenly become a genuine reality. As the play begins, a daughter confronts her father with the shocking information that she has genetically identical counterparts and is merely one of "a number" of clones. But cloning is only the play's backdrop; Churchill is much more interested in a penetrating, timeless inquiry into the nature of identity, the age-old debate between nature versus nurture, and the very substance of love. When "A Number" premiered at London's Royal Court Theatre, The Telegraph said, "What a tremendous play this is - moving, thought-provoking and dramatically thrilling."
The play quickly becomes a mystery in which the main character, Salter, muddles together truth and lies about the past while his cloned daughters try to piece together what really happened as the result of some doctor's experiment. Or is there another explanation? During the course of the play's action, Salter confronts his first child and two of her clones. In a theatrically interesting twist, the playwright requires the same actor to play all three daughters.
Salter (Tom Ryersbach) comforts his daughter (Amy Rene Byrne) when she discovers that she is a clone in “A Number,” which opens June 20.
Tom Ryersbach, who plays the reticent father, Salter, has resided in Williamsport for more than 40 years. He is a founder of the Actors' Group and has directed several plays for the company, including "Doubt," "Romance, Romance," "The Bald Soprano" and, most recently, "Autobahn."
Amy Rene Byrne performs Salter's three daughters. A Tennessee native, Byrne just recently moved to Williamsport. She received her master of fine arts degree in acting from West Virginia University and most recently taught at Zane State College in Ohio. She also performed with the Columbus Children's Theatre as Mother in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."
The play is directed by N.J. Stanley, who is an associate professor of theater at Lycoming College, where she teaches acting, directing, theater history and dramatic literature. She has directed more than 50 productions across the United States, including "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches," "Machinal," "The Laramie Project," "Hedda Gabler," "Macbeth," "How I Learned to Drive," "The Glass Menagerie," "The Women" and "The Threepenny Opera." Stanley received a master of fine arts degree in directing from Florida State University and a Ph.D. in theater and drama from Indiana University.
"A Number" is performed in five scenes without intermission and is intended for mature audiences. Tickets are $10 at the door. Call 322-0587 for more information.