May 10, 2008
Town and Country Players presents Proof
Theater: Town and Country Players
Opened: May 9, 2008
Seen: May 9, 2008
Submitted: May 10, 2008
Reviewer: Patrick Albanesius
Proof is the kind of show that asks the audience to experience a sad and painful scene of human existence; to watch someone you love slip away from normal capacities. While the audience is spared the details throughout most of the play, it makes it all the more powerful when such emotions are brought to their zenith. Despite the underlying sadness, however, Proof is far from a depressing show. Humor and quiet understanding seep throughout the performance and into the hearts of the audience members. It takes special concentration and focus from a dedicated group of actors to pull off a show like Proof. I was lucky enough to see such a cast.
Catherine (played by Danielle Malat) has just turned 25 and is trying to find what her place in the world might be now that she no longer has to take care of her mathematical genius, but mentally unstable father. In addition, she’s forced to consider that she may have inherited some, if not all of these traits. Malat exudes the bitter loneliness of Catherine’s confusion, giving the audience a sympathetic, if somewhat gruff leading character. Catherine deserves the audience’s pity, but would hate to have it.
Malat not only carries Catherine successfully through her emotional gauntlet, she also carries the play with tempo and energy. She claims a spot on the porch as if her life has been spent there, but doesn’t reserve herself to it. Malat moves about the stage very cleanly while tossing us back and forth between her sarcastic wit and her angry rampages. (The tree-stump speech was a personal favorite.) The audience often has to question whether Catherine’s eccentric sanity is transitioning into mental instability, a difficult feat, deftly maneuvered by Malat and the incredible script playwright Auburn provides her with.
The scenes between Catherine and her older sister Claire (played by Allie DeKorte) are very gripping. The obvious tension between two sisters is magnified when Claire comes back home to hopefully take care of her little sister. The past is dug up and the chemistry between the two erupts in scenes of tremendous humor and rapid anger. DeKorte provides great comedic timing and raw passion of her own and is the most consistent performance on stage, giving the audience a character to understand and sometimes side with in a quickly maddening world.
Hal (played by Chris Weiler) adds fuel to the fire by bringing Catherine’s father’s mathematical work into play, causing a stir in the story. With some humorous moments of his own, and emotional range that helps catapult Catherine’s swings, Weiler provides the show with depth and sincerity.
Robert (played by Keith Soester) is the absent-minded former genius. Robert is the father of Catherine and Claire and is seen very little during the first act, but does provide a key plot point early on. In the second act we rediscover Robert as a man who has fallen from the pedestal many had placed him on due to his genius mind. This mind comes to betray him and we see Robert’s character not through his genius, but his flaws. We hear no mathematical equations from Robert. Instead we get uncertain rambling, forgotten dates and a sense of disillusion. The finest scene in the play takes place between Robert and Catherine as they discuss the “math of cold”, a touching display of innocent confusion and utter helplessness that will break anyone’s heart. Soester portrays Robert with great honesty, never playing up the crazy cliché, but rather giving us a human being struggling with what fate has rout.
C. Jameson Bradley’s direction was fluid and quick. There was no wasted time or pregnant pauses allowing the audience to lose focus. In fact the timing seems slightly too quick in the first scene, as some of the dialogue wasn’t allowed to breath. That could simply be attributed to opening night jitters by a cast in a quick tempo play. This small complaint is far outshined by the fine acting for the rest of the performance. The use of spot lights during the “math of cold” scene was particularly moving but the lights were never obtrusive during the performance.
The space itself was extremely lovely. The intimate 155 seat area is a unique theater-in-the-round in that the stage splits the audience in two. The old barn’s stone and wood interior walls give off a comforting castle-room feel and the lounge area downstairs has its own rustic charm.
The show has a good amount of foul language for those who are bothered by it. There is also some kissing but nothing inappropriate for general audiences.