A Disappearing Number

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By Complicite.

Conceived by Simon McBurney.

Directed by Nick Bowling.

At TimeLine Theatre, Chicago.

“The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s, must be beautiful; the ideas like the colors or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.” -W. H. Hardy.

A Disappearing Number uses mathematics as a framing devise for storytelling. Told in a series of face-paced vignettes that move around in time and place, this love letter to numbers blends math mysticism with personal relationships as well as a story about two giants of math in the 20th century. While at times a tad confusing with the quick scene changes that defy time and place, A Disappearing Number is a challenges and smart piece of theatre.

From the early classroom lecture on math to infinity deftly presented by Juliet  Hart’s Ruth to Anish Jethmalani breaking the fourth wall to set up the play’s structure, particularly about math (thankfully for those like me who quickly get lost with math.), we easily get engaged in the world of math theory.

A Disappearing Number is based on the true story of Srinivase Ramanujan (played by understudy Anand Bhatt)  – a self-taught mathematician in rural India who, in 1913, sent a letter this amazing mathematical theorems to famed British mathematician G. H. Hardy (Dennis William Grimes). Paralleled  is the story, in the present, between  math professor Ruth (Juliet Hart) and businessman Al Cooper (Kareem Brandealy)  whose love affair shapes their lives. Both pairs struggle with life and the wonders of math as their stories unfold.

This tightly directed  (Nick Bowling) play uses  live music, choreographed movement and powerful media to tell its story. We see how math can connect the world between the largest to the smallest elements. Along the way, the acting is superb particularly by Kareem Bandealy, Juliet Hart, Anish Jethmalani and Dennis William Grimes.

After seeing A Disappearing Numberg, I have a new appreciation for mathematics despite me not knowing how it works!


Tom Williams.

Jeff Recommended.

At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, IL, call 773-281-8463, www.timelinetheatre.com, tickets $$38 – $46 – $51, Wed. & Thurs. at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, additional performances on Tuesdays  3/7 & 3/28, running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes without intermission, through April 9, 2017.

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