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Partition is an Excellent Drama on Mathematics

Also see Richard's recent review of Roberta

Rahul Gupta and
Rachel Rajput

The Aurora Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Ira Hauptman's Partition. This is a drama that mixes realism and mysticism on some important findings in the field of mathematics at the turn of the 20th century. The story of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (Rahul Gupta) comes to life in this eloquent new drama by the playwright. She combines realistic scenes of a life of study at Cambridge with mystical visions of the East Indian goddess Namagiri (Rachel Rajput). Also involved in this fascinating piece is the appearance of the 18th Century French mathematician Pierre de Fermat (Julian Lopez-Morillas). Don't let the word "mathematics" scare you off since this is an intriguing play and holds the interest of the audience. I was never good at math but here there is stimulation and mystery to the subject.

The play focuses mainly on the years 1913 to 1919 when Ramanujan, an underprivileged, largely self-taught mathematics genius, comes from Southern India to Cambridge on the invitation of his mentor, G.H. Hardy (David Arrow). Ramanujan has an extraordinarily instinctive grasp of complex theorems. The mathematician is helped by the goddess Ramanujan whom he worships. She comes to him in his dreams to plant solutions for multifaceted problems.

Ramanujan is a friendless person who is increasingly isolated in an the cold alien world of England during the war. Hardy tries to add purpose to this despairing person by challenging him to prove a theorem by 17th century French mathematician Pierre de Fermat, who appears occasionally lecturing on a platform at the rear of the three sided stage. No one has ever found the solution to this "Holy Grail of mathematics." It becomes an obsession for Ramanujan, which accounts for the rapid decline in health and his relationship of Namagiri.

Playwright Hauptman has written a warm drama centering around the cold eccentric atheist and pacifist Hardy who can't stand to be touched, and a childlike Hindu person who is an idealist and wants to be accepted and loved. As Hardy states, "East is East and West is West and never the twains shall meet," to which Ramanujan retorts "I studied Kipling in school." The mystical incarnations of the goddess Namagiri and Pierre de Fermat add to the enjoyment of the two act play.

The acting of the five member company is outstanding. David Arrow as the cold self-serving Hardy is brilliant in the role. His wonderful Cambridge trained voice is a pleasure to the ear. His manor and movements about the small three sided stage are extraordinary. Rahul Gupta as the warm, funny and loving Ramanujan is flawlessness. It is a wonderful performance by this very talented actor.

Julian Lopez-Morillas as the robust and egotistical French mathematician almost steals the production with his stunning performance and larger than life voice. Rachel Rajput, in a wonderful goddess costume as Namagiri, is strong and sympathetic in her role. The dialogue between Rajput and Gupta is performed without accents; as Rajput put it, "There are no accents since Ramanujan and the goddess converse in Hindi, their mother tongue. But speaking to other non-Indian characters, we use an Indian accent."

Rounding out the quintet is the excellent Chris Ayres playing Billington, the classicist professor friend of Hardy. His portrayal is compassionate and his exchanges with Hardy are sparkling. Barbara Oliver's direction is smooth and scenes flow beautifully into each other. The period costumes by Anna Oliver add to the enjoyment of the production.

Partition runs through May 18th at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, Ca. For tickets call 510-843-4822 or visit The company final production of the season will be Emile Zola's Therese Rauin which opens on June 20.

Photo: David Allen

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema