BWW Review: REPLICA creates a great copy at Stages Repertory Theatre

BWW Review: REPLICA creates a great copy at Stages Repertory Theatre

REPLICA is a show unlike any other that you will ever see in Houston, a science fiction thriller that asks the impossible. What if medical labs could make an exact copy of a human right down to memories and emotions? What if they could take stem cells and produce a carbon version of you at the exact age you are, and even map it down to make the same ethical choices? What if you were dying and wanted your husband and children to carry on with a new model? This is what REPLICA dares to ask, and it does this with the help of the only cast on the planet that could pull it off. This is probably one of the best shows of the summer, and it can never be duplicated.

This is a world premiere from successful television writer Mickey Fisher. He has a series premiering on NBC May 30th with the help of Steven Spielberg entitled REVERIE, so the man has earned serious sci fi chops. Previous credits include work on EXTANT with Halle Berry and THE STRAIN from Guillermo Del Toro. He wrote REPLICA specifically for two actresses - twins Janna and Julia Cardia. They create the eerie effect of a perfect clone coming to life. They are joined by a former member of the Alley Company, John Feltch who plays the doctor in charge of the experiment.

The play itself starts inside a clinic just about when the copy is ready to meet the client who is dying and only has months to live. She must assess whether this is the person she wants to go out into the world and carry on as her. We never leave the medical setting, and for the next hour and twenty minutes we witness as cracks begin to show and realize that maybe a perfect copy isn't what we need to carry on. Like any good science fiction it is seeking the essence of what it means to be human. Is it your memories, your soul, or something even more elusive? And how would you handle the knowledge that you are not you but rather a copy made for someone else?

REPLICA is funny, intense, and disturbing all at once. It has a playful side that the Cardia twins embrace easily. They make it light where it needs to be, but also desperately dark when called for. The two women play off each other in a way that only twins could, even mirroring the tiniest of movements while not even facing each other. They both turn in a stellar performance that will have audiences gasping at how effective they are. Julie in particular does some heavy lifting, but you get a sense without Janna she couldn't get there. John Feltch plays their doctor, and he gives an incredibly nuanced performance with a voice that reminds me of James Mason. He grounds the play when it is needed, and provides the setups for the twins to create their magic.

The script does a good job of managing a couple of predictable twists, and then offers perilous turns that aren't quite as easy to see. The nice thing is it isn't afraid to dig deep into the emotional questions here, and it allows the actors a freedom to explore science fiction in a way that only an intimate theatre can provide the space for. STAGES was wise to choose this one for their season, because their three quarter thrust is perfect for this type of experiment. This works as a theatrical experience, and couldn't be translated as well for the big or small screen.

The neon highlighted set is clinical and perfectly done for what is needed. The lighting works well, and I loved the touch of the intricate sound design that creates the feel of a futuristic laboratory deep in the realms of a research building somewhere. This makes the show all that more believable even if it is simple and straightforward.

To go into detail would be to betray some of the best moments of REPLICA, so I will leave it at you should go and experience this one. It is a fast moving 80 minute one act that fires on all cylinders and has not one moment of release of the tension. Mickey Fisher knows how to construct a script that is tight and fast moving, and the Cardia twins keep the ball in the air throughout the whole thing. In this age of whiz bang computer generated spectacles like STAR WARS or the AVENGERS, it's nice to sit down and take science fiction back to its roots. REPLICA aims at the human condition, and recreates it a little too perfectly to make anybody comfortable.

REPLICA only runs at STAGES REPERTORY THEATRE through June 10th. You can acquire tickets through their website at or by calling the box office at (713) 527-0123. Proof of your original identity may be required and clones will require an additional ticket.

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From This Author Brett Cullum

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