Also see Kevin's review of The Gulf of Westchester
Mosaic’s Artistic Director Richard Simon couldn’t have picked a better cast. Stepping up to the task of bringing this story to life are some of South Florida’s best talent; Bob Rogerson (Robert), Lauren Feldman (Catherine), Autumn Horne (Claire), and Nicholas Richberg (Hal) have brought their skills to show audiences how ensemble acting is done. This quartet of professionals take their time in giving us a night of riveting performances that are unforgettable.
We all should know this story by now: on her 25th birthday, Catherine is visited by her father, a brilliant mathematician named Robert. They bond again over bad champagne, numbers, and theorems. Robert encourages Catherine not to waste her talent while she is just spent. Turns out, Catherine's father passed away almost a week ago.
Making matters more difficult is Catherine’s encounter with one of Robert’s former students. Hal is going through his mentor’s notes, looking for the discoveries and brilliance Robert had at Hal's age. Catherine confronts Hal, hoping to keep her father’s thoughts safe within the family’s walls.
Next comes Catherine’s older sister, Claire. She has left their childhood home in Chicago to start a fresh life in New York. While Catherine took care of their father in the last days of his life, Claire got a new job and an engagement ring. Claire feels put upon being back in the old digs sparring with her baby sister on things like healthy hair, false police alarms, and invisible boyfriends.
All this comes to a head after their father’s funeral. Catherine and Hal bond over mathematics and history lessons. Hal earns Catherine’s trust by getting a key to a drawer in Robert’s study. What Hal finds creates a debate over whether Catherine has inherited her father’s brilliance or will follow his downward spiral into madness.
David Auburn’s script moves beyond family drama, into an underlying theme that all can relate to: competition. Each person is competing for something, whether to be the best mathematician, the best student, the best lover, or the best child. These four characters are rivals not only against each other, but against themselves.
All of this is played out on a comfortable porch designed by Rich Simone. Complete with mulch, lawn table/chair set, a swing bed, and nice trees with fall foliage, Simone’s set looks like something right out of "This Old House." Proving to be the lighting maven that he is, Travis Neff creates revelations of space and characters. Different colors are used to resonate the times in which scenes take place, whether it be day or night, winter, summer, or fall. Wardrobe by Meredith Lasher is character defining; we easily know where each character comes from and what they represent by what they wear.
Speaking of characters, the players each bring a quirk. Catherine is prickly when touched. Claire has the smile of a car salesman. Robert broods like Hamlet. Hal has facial tics and twitches. But the actors use those quirks to their advantage in drawing the audience in, making each character carry his/her own weight.
Lauren Feldman is a wonder as Catherine. She instills in Catherine a boundless energy and spark that controls the room when she wants. Feldman also uses the space very well when going through the emotions of anger, sadness, and elation. She digs into the nuances that make Catherine tick: her devotion to Robert, residing in the home of her youth, and her willingness to keep her father’s memory alive. Feldman reaches deep, not using any predictable acting tricks, making Catherine exciting to watch.
Bob Rogerson, late of Caldwell Theatre’s Iago, gives a stirring performance as a man whose brightest days have completely gone by, yet he remains undaunted. Robert doesn’t just fade away as a ghost - he is shown in separate flashbacks in act two. Rogerson gives the mathematician a larger than life persona, screaming that he still matters. And while Robert shows his vulnerability, Rogerson switches from Shakespearean to tortured soul in a snap, giving Robert more credibility.
Claire can be a throwaway role, but given it to the right player, “Big Sis” is the essential antagonist. Autumn Horne brings her comedic sense of timing and brash delivery to make Claire an equal part of this quad. She brings to Claire a cocky swagger from jump, but also shows us the underlying jealousy that Claire has for Catherine because of her father’s affections toward the baby sister. Horne gives Claire a “woman of the world” stance while showing her battle scars underneath the surface.
Nicholas Richberg is a case study for character development. Hal is more than just a math nerd and an impending love interest. With each nervous tic, Richberg builds a complex person in this former apprentice. Hal is torn between his devotion to Catherine and his duty as a scientist. We see this in Richberg’s portrayal as he uses tactics and beats to talk Catherine down at times. And when being challenged in Hal’s belief system, Richberg digs in to give the character some depth between the shakes and twitches.
Even the best dramas have lighter fare within the story. Richard Simon’s direction sheds light on some humorous scenarios that we might not have known were in Auburn’s dialogue. His encouragement influences the players to bring out the characters' softer sides. The visual aspects that the actors create also needs noting; Rogerson and Richberg trade in their usual matinee idol, baby face looks for beards and shaggy hair; Horne’s long blond tresses are now honey brunette while Feldman’s facial expressions and mannerisms show a move from ingénue to leading lady.
Proof may be an award-winning composition on paper, but it takes a certain group to make sure Auburn’s story doesn’t go to waste. Simon’s cast gives a moving performance that shows what ensemble acting is all about.
Proof closes out Mosaic’s season on May 23rd at the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd, Plantation. For tickets, please call (954) 577-8243 or visit their website at www.mosaictheatre.com.
MOSAIC THEATRE - Proof
Cast: Lauren Feldman, Bob Rogerson*,
Stage Manager: Betsy Paull-Rick
Set Design: Rich Simone
Directed by Richard Jay Simon
*-denotes Actors' Equity Association
-- Kevin Johnson