Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires


Regional Reviews by Zander Opper

Proof
Playhouse on Park

Also see Fred's review of Dancing Lessons


Marty Scanlon and Dana Brooke
David Auburn's Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning Proof is currently receiving an excellent production by Playhouse on Park in West Hartford. This compelling and bittersweet play is presented with a superb cast of four, featuring a stunning performance by Dana Brooke in the main role of Catherine. I was lucky enough to see the original Broadway production of Proof, with a glorious Mary Louise Parker in the lead, and Playhouse on Park's staging compares quite favorably to that original production. Told in a series of short, non-linear scenes, Proof proves to be much more than the sum of its parts. It paints a portrait of a young woman who has taken care of her ailing father for years, with the collective power of the series of scenes rendering an indelible story of people trying to connect and the varying degrees to which they are successful in doing just that. Playhouse on Park's crisp production does full justice to David Auburn's Proof and is essential viewing.

On a weathered-looking set of a house, created by the skillful scenic designer Christopher Hoyt, the main focus is the, at times, less than sympathetic character of Catherine. Mary Louise Parker's natural charm and personality rendered Catherine with a degree of likability that Dana Brooke is sometimes missing, though this is not necessarily a bad thing. Catherine is supposed to be abrasive, and Dana Brooke's honest and revealing performance is one of a complicated, multi-layered young woman. The payoff of Dana Brooke's transparency in playing this role is that we are able to see all sides of Catherine, and the moments when she is happy stand in sharp contrast to the general bitter nature of her character and her character's life. That Dana Brooke is completely riveting from start to finish is a testament to the skill and talent of this actress.

The other characters are equally interesting and multifaceted. As Catherine's father Robert, a top math professor in decline, Damian Buzzerio is quite good and, as the play jumps back and forth in time, he proves to be extremely touching and sympathetic. Melissa Macleod Herion portrays Catherine's sister Claire with all the strength and forthrightness that the character demands and, though she can be less than pleasant in her actions, she is completely believable and understandable. In the appealing role of Hal, Marty Scanlon is terrific; he offers the greatest degree of hope for a brighter future for the character of Catherine. Not to give too much away, the scenes between Dana Brooke and Marty Scanlon are the most joyful and happy in the piece.

Director Dawn Loveland does an exemplary job of juggling these characters and scenes, and the production is consistently entertaining and fascinating. The title refers to a complicated mathematical "proof," but you don't need to be an expert in math to enjoy David Auburn's skillful play. Considering that Proof features a quartet of substantial, interesting characters on a single set, it is a natural for regional theatre and, when it is presented as wonderfully as it is here, the full power and depth of this work shine through. Playhouse on Park's production of Proof ranks quite highly next to the original and offers a very full, rewarding evening of theatre.

Proof continues performances at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through February 8, 2015. For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call (860) 523-5900.


Photo: Rich Wagner

- Zander Opper


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