(by Tanya Barfield, directed by Delroy Lindo, at The Berkeley Rep). The Berkeley Rep’s latest play investigates the notion of African-American identity and history through one night of memories in the life of Lewis, an African-American professor of the philosophy of mathematics. His white wife has just divorced him and his father has died the year before, and he is sort of falling apart. Lewis’s meditation is interrupted by his ancestors, from Simon, the slave who became free, through his own father, and has to come to grips with his own family’s history and how his own struggle to be an academic success has been shaped by his own upbringing.
This is a play worth seeing, and is definitely not the bildungsroman that Passing Strange was. The writing is at times too obvious, and the billing as a “play with music” feels inaccurate compared to other “plays with music” that I have seen. Lewis’s research is on questions of causality and how time is represented mathematically, which may or may not be something that real math philosophers deal with, and is of course a convenient metaphor on which to bounce the story of the play. What really shines out are the performances, which salvaged any unevenness in the writing for me. David Fonteno and Teagle F. Bougere are simply electric together.