YOU GUYS! THERE’S MATH HAPPENING!
Patterns: A Numbers and Symbols Show, begins inconspicuously. The lights dim, and a man started talking. I thought he was a person rushing to get to his seat from the bathroom…turns out he was Gregg Tobo, the guy whose show it was.
Though, admittedly, ‘show’ might not be the right word for the experience. “Lecture”, maybe, or “Presentation”. Tobo bumbled about a bit, and was a bit hard to follow. He lacked showmanship or charisma, but made up for it with his keen intelligence. Perhaps because of his patter, and partially because of the seating arrangement at the Goethe Institute Main Stage, one feels the atmosphere of a collegiate lecture hall. I expected to be quizzed afterwards.
The show deals with a lot of random generation from the audience, which is spurred on by Mr. Tobo, and flipped into such a way that “What you put into the universe, must come back.” Both of Mr. Tobo’s lengthy math-tricks proved that point in spades. However, there was no mysticism or glamour to the presentation. In fact, there was quite the opposite!
Tobo insisted on deconstructing the mathematical magic, making it seem plain, simple, and ordinary. With the constant fumbling and restarting of sentences, it became hard to tell whether or not it was nerves, or if Tobo himself was unprepared. Tobo never gave the impression that this was a constructed ‘character’ for his show…which actually just made me a bit uncomfortable. If the tricks of his trade were employed, they were done so in a subtle, unnoticeable way. Whatever the case, I wanted more from him to draw me into the universe he was keen on showing us. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the universe he was trying to show us was the one we actually inhabit, not a construct made by artists.
Patterns: A Number and Symbols Show
by Gregg Tobo
at Goethe Institut
812 7th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Admittedly, I kept looking for an elegant pas-de-deux of art and mathematics. Only towards the middle of the end did I find the beautiful reveals of the patterns, but the ‘elegant’ part was sadly missing. Then, I felt less keen once the secrets were simply explained; I had hoped for the magician NOT to tell us how he got the proverbial rabbit out of the proverbial hat. Instead, the atmosphere of the show gave way to the atmosphere of being back in college.
The very nature of the show calls to attention just what our needs for shows are. Is it all panem et circenses, or do we need to expand our minds and see our world for precisely what it is? Or I could answer the question for you: we see shows for experiences, and this one is something about which I could very easily have read a book.
Patterns is an odd addition to Fringe, seemingly out of place amid all the plays, music, dancing, visual art and storytelling. I expected to face some mind-boggling mental tricks, and indeed, I was face-to-face with them. I got what I asked for, but that victory seemed rather hollow.