Monday, July 19, 2010

"A Disappearing Number" and "Perfect European Man"

Two plays in two days in two very different settings, the first attended yesterday with LW and friend S, the second today with TH.

Appearing as part of Lincoln Center Festival was Theatre Complicite's A Disappearing Number in its New York premiere. High-tech set, including video and direct projection, fluid stage transformation, polished acting, cross-cultural interactions spanning UK, India and the USA. The production, conceived and directed by Simon McBurney, moved like a film. It spliced the life of mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (Chetna Pandya) with a contemporary romance between a math professor Ruth Minnen (Saskia Reeves) and a futures trader Al Cooper (Firdous Bamji). It meditated on the different kinds of mathematical infinity, and sought consolation for death in the idea of infinite series, or Things Are Connected When They Happen One After Another. It was also about the idea of beauty. The Cambridge mathematician G. H. Hardy (David Annen), who worked with Ramanujan, wrote in his A Mathematician's Apology, "Mathematicians are only makers of patterns, like poets or painters."

The other play was also concerned with beauty, though of a much more physical kind. Written and directed by DJ Salisbury, Perfect European Man looked at the life of Sandow the Magnificent, who was to be preserved for posterity by a British Museum body casting. Xander Chauncey was a little opaque as Eugen Sandow though he bared almost everything throughout the show. Thom Christopher Warren was the vulnerable, and thus believable, caster Desmond Frates. The play quoted Keats's Endymion. The small Cherry Lane Studio Theatre was almost full for this part of Fresh Fruit: the 8th Annual International Festival of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Arts and Culture.

It's not about patter, it's all about verbal patterning.

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