PlayMakers PRC2 series opens with ‘A Number’

PlayMakers Repertory Company’s PRC 2 second-stage series will open its fifth season with playwright Caryl Churchill’s intensely charged family drama with a twist, “A Number,” Sept. 7-11.

PlayMakers, the professional theater company in residence in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, also has announced that “The Amish Project” has joined the PRC2 lineup, to run Jan. 11-15. Written and performed by Jessica Dickey, the play will be directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde.

Both plays will be in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. PRC2 combines a topical production with audience discussions with the creative artists and other panelists after each performance.

In “A Number,” Churchill takes the age-old scenario of confrontation between father and son and turns it inside out. She explores issues of human identity and parental responsibility, tackling the nature-versus-nurture debate head on. In this family, the sons are actually clones of the father’s real son. Variables mount, guilt surfaces, lies are exposed and consequences cannot be denied as startling facts are revealed.

PlayMakers’ production will feature longtime company actor Ray Dooley as the father. Dooley also is a dramatic art professor and head of the professional actor training program at UNC. New York-based actor Josh Barrett will play the sons.

The Washington Post said “A Number” is “fiendishly clever,” and The Telegraph of London called it “intellectually and morally profound.” The Internet magazine Theatreworld said it is “a play that you will want to discuss and debate long after you have left the theatre.”

“A Number” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. nightly and 2 p.m. Sept. 11.

“‘A Number’ works like a detective novel,” said PlayMakers associate artistic director Jeff Meanza. “Full of questions and sharp dramatic twists, the play is perfectly suited to the PRC2 format.”

“The Amish Project” is a fictionalized account of the 2006 Nickel Mines schoolhouse shooting in Pennsylvania Amish country. Five girls were killed in a hostage-taking incident, the kind all too often played out in today’s society from Columbine to this summer’s tragedy in Norway.

Told through the voices of seven characters, including the gunman and two of his victims, Dickey’s performance links their lives together through back stories and side dramas, ultimately framing this devastating tale into an exploration of compassion and forgiveness.

The New York Times proclaimed “The Amish Project” “an extraordinary performance … a remarkable piece of writing.” Time Out New York’s reviewer wrote, “[Dickey’s] craft made me weep. The virtuosic writer-performer acts her bonnet off.”

“The Amish Project” rounds out the 2011-2012 PRC2 season, which also includes the world premiere of “Penelope,” written and performed by Ellen McLaughlin, with live music composed by Sarah Kirkland Snider (April 25-29).

PlayMakers’ new main-stage season opens with Sarah Ruhl’s Tony Award-nominated comedy “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” Sept. 21-Oct. 9.

Tickets for “A Number” are available as part of PlayMakers’ 2011-2012 season subscription packages, or for $10-$35 for individual PRC2 shows. They may be purchased at or by calling (919) 962-PLAY (7529).

New York’s Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the “best regional theatres in America.”