Acting is tops in Gamm's 'A Number' and 'Far Away'

Acting is tops in Gamm's 'A Number' and 'Far Away'

Alexander Platt and Marianna Bassham star in "Far Away" by Caryl Churchill and directed by Tony Estrella, appearing at The Gamm through Oct. 13.

The Gamm's opening show of their new season is actually a double-header. Two one-act plays by Caryl Churchill. "A Number" and "Far Away" are both difficult pieces: difficult to present, difficult material, and in the case of the latter, difficult to follow.

But as always, the acting in both pieces is superb. Before "A Number" begins, a tape recording of young children hauntingly singing lullabies sets the tone for the show. The sins of a father (Jim O'Brien) come home to roost as his son (Tony Estrella) learns that he's a genetic copy of his father's first son, lost in a car accident along with his mother.

The problem: the doctors who created the copy made a few extras - a number of them - and the son ran into one. As the play progresses, Estrella returns as the original and a third copy. The moral dilemmas come to a crescendo as the father's stories slowly unravel and a number of lives start to fall apart.

Estrella is simply fantastic playing the three different roles. With some simple costume changes, varied hair styles and subtle posture shifts, Estrella manages to be three very different yet genetically identical beings. An amazing bit of acting.

"Far Away" opens in a cabin in the deep woods, late at night. A young girl (Lauren Durkin), spending the night with her aunt (Casey Seymour Kim) and uncle, can't sleep. When her aunt learns that the girl has been outside near the shed, she weaves a pretty fantastic tale to explain the truly horrific things the girl has seen the uncle do.

The scene shifts quickly to a hat factory where the grown-up girl (Marianna Bassham) and her partner (Alexander Platt) are working on hats for the Parade. Over the course of four days, they create a couple of fantastic pieces of headwear that are featured in Friday's Parade, modeled by a variety of people in orange jumpsuits. Without giving too much away, the Parade doesn't end well for the models.

Shortly, the girl and her partner have escaped to Seymour Kim's cabin in the woods, where they discuss the world war that rages on, pitting man, animals, insects and elements against one another.

There's a lot of seemingly nonsensical dialogue toward the end of the play about the alliances between certain groups that grows funnier and funnier as it gets more ridiculous. But at the end, a study guide would have been helpful.

Terrific performances, certainly, but a head-scratcher. Imagination is certainly required for this one.

"A Number" and "Far Away" run through Oct. 13 at The Gamm in Pawtucket. Visit www.gammtheatre.org or call 401-723-4266 for tickets and details.