Proof: Vibrant and Entertaining in McCarter Revival
Also see Bob's review of The Beautiful Dark
The setting is the back porch of a house near the University of Chicago campus over the course of a few days in September. Twenty-five year old Catherine is at the end of her tether. Her father Robert, who was a great mathematician until he began to slip into long term mental illness when he was even younger than she is now, has recently passed away. Catherine and her father were kindred spirits (eight years ago, she gave up her higher education to stay home and care for him) and she fears that, along with a penchant for mathematics, she has inherited his mental illness. In fact, as Proof opens, Catherine is hallucinating a conversation with her deceased father who is trying to cajole her out of her deep funk.
Hal Dobbs, a former student of her father, who is a U. of C. mathematician in his own right, is in the house poring over Robert's notebooks in the hope that some of the notes which he left behind contain valuable mathematical analyses. Catherine's sister Claire is about to arrive from New York for their father's funeral tomorrow.
The plight of Catherine takes center stage here. Is she sane and capable of building a life for herself, or, as Claire is certain, is she a mentally disturbed woman in need of sheltering care?
Catherine is a victim of her father's selfish need for her. Hal has subtly been courting, and clearly cares for her. Yet even he (along with the viewer) realizes that Claire may well be right in her judgment. All of this culminates in a compelling, emotionally involving resolution. The relationship between Catherine and her father and other plot details are not skirted. They are simply not as important as the poignancy which we feel for Catherine.
Kristen Bush's multi-leveled Catherine is a fragile, wounded young woman who is fighting for her future and sanity. Bush finds all the right notes, smoothly integrating them into a moving portrait. Bush also perfectly captures adolescent enthusiasm in a flashback sequence. Here she is aided by the evocative costumes of Jennifer von Mayrhauser.
Jessica Dickey as the overbearing Claire captures the subtleties of a very human, flawed character whose worst fault may be her unearned self-assurance. Michael Braun is a slightly ruffled and likeable Hal.
The thought and attention that director Emily Mann has given her Proof have resulted in a fresh interpretation that is deeply moving. Set designer Eugene Lee has designed a large center stage open porch which extends past the proscenium into the auditorium. The upstage back wall of the house is largely depicted as a blackboard. It is covered with mathematical equations in white chalk.
Proof is a moving and intelligent entertainment. Those who have seen earlier productions will find rewarding new details in Emily Mann's McCarter revival.
Proof continues performances (Evenings: Tuesday-Thursday & Sunday 7:30 pm/ Friday & Saturday 8 pm/ Mats: Saturday 3 pm; Sunday 2 pm) through October 6, 2013, at the McCarter Theatre Center (Berlind Theatre), 91 University Place, Princeton 08540. Box Office: 609-258-2787; online: www.mccarter.org.
Proof by David Auburn; directed by Emily Mann