nytheatre.com review by Jack Hanley
August 9, 2008
If you are your own worst enemy, then who's the last person you should trust? Your mail-order clone, of course. That's the clever idea revealed unfortunately too early in Christopher Loar's new play. From the beginning the trajectory never veers from a rudimentary, Freudian study of the unconscious mind vs. the conscious.
The play opens with John face-to-face with his just-delivered clone. After a humorous glitch is worked out, we learn that the clone has been encoded with all of John's memories and learned skills. The clone understands his purpose—to be John at his low-level administrative job so that "real" John has time to hang out in his apartment being an aspiring writer. By the playwright's language and Rafael Gallegos's direction, there's little doubt (sorely needed) that the clone is a sentient being, human by all standards, who has little interest in being John's worker bee. He wants his own life.
The clone soon becomes involved with a woman at the office, and far too quickly he sees John as being an ambitionless slob. Such self-loathing deserves a more progressive and hesitant course. He ridicules him as "John 1.0." And, predictably, John 2.0 wants 1.0 erased. There were moments in the play when Loar began to intrigue me with ideas of self-reflection or the warring duality of selfhood, but they were too brief and too few. His psychological explorations seemed stifled and consequently the science fiction lost its essential human element of wonder.
Loar is a rhythmic writer who can compose a memorable tête–à–tête, but with the perfect device he imagined to delve into a rich character study, we learn no more than that John is a bore and his clone (or id) wants to go to swank parties. The woman we never see is ostensibly at the center of the story. The Johns bicker over whose turn it is to have sex with her and they use language that a pubescent boy might find beneath him. Perhaps this was one clue about John—perhaps he's a man stalled somewhere in his childhood development. But crude, sexist language alone is not enough to make me take much interest in a character's state of mind.
Loar performs in the play alongside Aaron Hodges (alternating their roles each performance). They each have a grounded presence, and Gallegos's kinetic staging helps the piece feel swift. With more deliberate character development and perhaps revelations of intrapersonal crisis, Clone could be a captivating play.