IRA HAUPTMAN’S BIO PLAY OF THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY BRINGS THE MADNESS OF MATH FULL CIRCLE
The gothic Berkeley City Club turns into the Halls of Cambridge for Ira Hauptman’s play, “Partition.” This bio drama is about the life of genius Ramanujan, the young Indian mathematician inspired by the real life friendship between two famed brilliant minds in Edwardian England. This multileveled story is moving and poigant. Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy “discovered” Ramanujan in 1913. The young Indian clerk was an apparent savant who’d received some basic education but seemed to acquire extraordinary ability to devise math some previously unknown, some he discovered and un known to him. He was asked to come to Britain, after he sent his notes to Cambridge. But the cold, damp climate and other factors wore down his health, finally resulting in his return to india and his death in 1920 at the young age of 33.
Indra’s Net Theatre artistic director Bruce Coughran says “Srinivasa Ramanujan said that his mathematical discoveries were given to him in his dreams by a Hindu Goddess. Wherever they came from, they continue to astound mathematicians with their fluidity and depth today, a hundred years after his death. This play is a fantasy based on the life of this legendary Indian clerk who came up with mathematical theorems that rivaled those of any mathematician in history.” Director Coughran brings together a cast of five talented Bay Area actors to tell this story of math and madness.
Srinivasa Ramanujan is played by the compassionate Heren Palel. This Indian is a fish out of water in London, he was a poor, largely self-taught math whiz with a remarkable intuitive obsession for complex math concepts. G.H. Hardy, played by local favorite Alan Coyne, invites Ramanujan to Cambridge. Hardy was a leading English mathematician at the iconic university with a passion for pure math and an obsession for rigorous proofs. The neurotic Hardy can’t even handle direct eye contact and their mutual admiration soon runs into a conflict and confusion. The need to meet academic standards for proofs brings Ramanujan his divine gift from a goddess Namagiri, played by Avanthika Srinivasan, whom he holds so important, she is his muse, consular and travel companion. She comes to him in his dreams to plant solutions for multifaceted problems. The very concept of “proof” is beyond his comprehension.
Playwright Hauptman combines realistic elements and mysticism of men trying to understand numbers. The story includes the appearance of the 18th Century French mathematician, Pierre de Fermat, played by the elegant Marco Aponte. The intriguing two act two hour play holds the interest of the audience and to watch Patel become the heart and soul of the erratic Ramanujan is truly impressive. As the story continues Hardy tries to add purpose to Ramanujan by challenging him to prove a theorem by 17th century French mathematician Pierre de Fermat. “No one has ever found the solution to this Holy Grail of mathematics." It becomes his obsession that accounts for the rapid decline in health and his gate to madness. Rounding out the quintet is the excellent David Boyll who plays Billington, the classicist professor friend of Hardy. His portrayal is compassionate and his exchanges with Hardy are compelling. Patel is the highlight of the cast as the intense, sweet, funny and obsessed Ramanujan; he is flawless.
The craft team staged this busy play in the Berkeley City Club’s main room that holds about 50 people so the space is tight. Set design by Robert Bo Golden kept the three generations on small platforms that at times seem to crowd the five actors. I saw some of the barefoot characters stub their toes.
But the tables and math concepts worked in the design are all very effective. The lighting by Haley Miller complements Lisa M Claybaugh’s costumes that are colorful for the goddess and dapper for the Cambridge Doctors. Props also by Golden were important for the various science books and paper and items that Ramanujan needed in his small room. Rebecca Castelli is the dialect coach who brought Patels Hindi accent to perfection, and stage manager Vanessa Ramos is precise in getting her actors in and out of the tight entrances in the very goth Berkeley City Club. Coughran’s direction is smooth as he builds on the mathematicians maze in the second decade of the 20th century. The mix is delightful when Hauptman abruptly brings Hardy’s final, stricken class lecture where he reveals the true depth of his isolation from and longing for human contact and his admiration for the Genius Ramanujan.
Director Coughran says "Indra’s Net Theater’s mission is to produce and perform plays that deal with science, philosophy and the “big questions”. We aim to interact with the greater scholarly, academic and general interest community of Berkeley to enrich and expand the theater experience in new ways. We produce professional-quality productions and special events, as well as developing new plays, that explore what we know and how we know it." Indra Net Theater is set do produce furture production this season, and this production must close this weekend. Tickets will be available at the door and they always get their wait list a seat.
Indra’s Net Theater Presents
by Ira Hauptman
With: Heren Patel, Alan Coyne, David Boyll, Marco Aponte and
Avanthika Srinivasan, Understudy Aparna Krishnamoorthy as Namagiri
Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue
Must Close Jan 14th
Tickets at http://www.indrasnettheater.com/partition/