Also see Dean's review of Pirates!
The play's title refers to mathematical proofsmathematical arguments that follow strict rules of formal logic and necessarily lead to a resulting theorem. But if math isn't your strong suit, don't shy away; against the backdrop of mathematics and academia, Auburn tells a story everyone can connect to, weaving together themes of family dynamics, the terrifying struggle with mental illness, and love. The protagonist, Catherine (played by Bridget S. Dunne), never finished her own education in math to care for her father, Robert (Neil Faulconbridge), a mathematical genius whose mental health began to decline in his twenties. Amidst tensions between Catherine and her sister Claire (Christy Lopez), and a budding romance between Catherine and Hal (Michael Weppler), one of Robert's former students, a ground-breaking proof comes to light that raises questions about trust, motive, and Catherine's own mental lucidity.
Dunne received a theatre degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and makes her Explora debut as Catherine, previously portraying such characters as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice and Woman in Woman and Scarecrow. Dunne expertly navigates the complexity of Catherine, revealing to the audience varying shades of the protagonist throughout the play. She is plagued by anger, grief over her father, and at times self doubt. While Catherine has many explosive moments, Dunne also gives us a forcefully subdued version with which we can empathize, a young woman who struggles to repress the trials she faces, often alone. Dunne's delivery is natural and her emotion is tangible. She makes Catherine vulnerable and extremely human; after their first kiss and a tender line from Hal"I always liked you"she giggles girlishly in spite of herself. It's a challenging role, and Dunne soars.
Faulconbridge has appeared as Harold Hardy in Partition and Captain Fitzroy in After Darwin, both previous Explora Theatre productions. He is impressive as Robert, Catherine's father. He is quirky, obsessive, loving and funnywhile arguing over dinner, Robert states that the generic idea of "pasta" sounds so "helpless, a surrender." Robert is everything you'd imagine a genius mathematician father to be, and Faulconbridge brings him to life. His delivery is superb; you'll feel like an invisible observer catching glimpses of real, intimate conversations.
Lopez, a graduate of the University of New Mexico's theatre program, has performed at many local venues. I recently saw her in I Wanna Hold Your Hand: An Evening of One Acts at The Vortex. She skillfully portrays Claire, Catherine's concerned, somewhat estranged, and almost motherly sister who tries so hard to simultaneously force warmth and normalcy into their relationship while also acting on her concerns that Catherine may be displaying signs of mental degeneration similar to their father's. Lopez balances Claire's own mixed bag of emotions and gives us a nuanced, natural performance. Finally, there's Weppler's portrayal of Hal. Hal is probably the least complex character, and the most removed from the inter-family drama, but Weppler's performance is genuine, at times tender, and infused with a passion and earnest of his own. Weppler has a year's worth of acting in Albuquerque under his belt, having recently performed in It's a Wonderful Life at Albuquerque Little Theatre and Pride and Prejudice at the Adobe Theatre; I look forward to seeing him in future productions.
What do you know? When you combine great writing with talented actors and good direction, you get a high-quality production. Tell your friends. (After reserving tickets for yourself, of course.)
Proof is playing at the Explora Theater through March 10, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $8 for members of Explora, ATG, or TLG and $10 for non-members. For reservations, call 505-224-8305, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Explora.us to reserve online. Proof contains adult language and runs approximately 1 ¾ hours.