Written by Daniella Litvak
Fortunately, other than the title, Proof did not remind me of geometry class at all. Most of the characters may be mathematicians and some mathematical terminology is thrown around but surprisingly it enhances this drama about a young woman’s struggle with her past, present and future.
Proof takes place entirely in the backyard of the Chicago home of Catherine and her father, Robert. A brilliant mathematician who made incredible contributions to several fields when younger, Robert became mentally ill, which impaired his personal and professional lives. Catherine acted as his caretaker for years. The father-daughter bond between the two is deep and moving. However, Catherine must now grapple with whether Robert imparted his brilliance or his neurosis to her. On top of this she has to decide if she will acquiesce to her sister Claire’s wishes or look into the possibilities Hal, one of Robert’s former students, is offering.
Proof is a well written play. It is well structured and well plotted with nothing extraneous getting in the way. Although not a mystery, there are a few mystery elements that nicely heightening the drama. The dialogue is engaging, and the characters become people you want to know and root for. As for the ending, it achieves the perfect balance of wanting more but leaving you satisfied with where the audience must part from the characters.
There is something very natural about this show. It really feels like the audience is eavesdropping on people’s lives, and the characters themselves have no awareness of anyone listening. No grandstanding, no lectures —the story speaks for itself and leaves the conclusions to our own devices.
The cast includes Nicole E. Powell and Garcia Abel. Both are proving to be rising stars in the Orange County theater scene. Earlier this year Powell turned in a great performance as Tracy Turnblad in Laguna Playhouse’s production of Hairspray, and Garcia was Antonio in Stages Theatre’s fantastic production of The Merchant of Venice. Here, both actors continue to demonstrate their considerable acting chops. As Catherine, Powell delivers a fantastic performance. For most of the show Catherine has to be prickly and withdrawn, but she never feels unlikeable. Powell more than capably presents Catherine as a fully realized character reacting to both the highs and lows of her life. Hal could have been an unfortunate character dragging down the play, but thanks to Garcia he comes across as someone who is both endearing and has his own shortcomings to deal with.
Jennifer Shea as Claire and Thom Gilbert as Robert round out the cast. Just as we’re about to write off Claire as clueless and uncaring, Shea reveals her vulnerabilities and makes us realize Claire also deserves the sympathy we extend to the other characters. Playing a mentally ill genius is a hard role to pull off —as numerous other works of fiction have proven —but Gilbert does; it helps that his performance is comparatively understated. Furthermore, his performance in the penultimate scene definitely provoked chills.
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Nov 17 – Dec 17 2017