The most important thing I can do in my review of “Proof” is not spoil it for you.
The second most important thing I can do is tell you to see it. I know, I know, I am an easy reviewer: I always tell you to see the play. That’s because I do my homework and pick the shows that I can deliciously anticipate the whole week before I see them. There have to be some perks to being an editor, right?
In this case, there are plenty of reasons to see this play. “Proof” is the story of Catherine, a twentysomething student of promise who has given up her education and career to care for her father, a gifted mathematician, who also has had lapses of madness and dementia.
The play is small and beautiful. Small, in an intimate sense, as there are just four characters, and while all are integral, it is truly Catherine’s story. Intimate, too, because all of the action takes place on the family’s back porch. Behind it, the house is illuminated so the audience can see what’s happening inside, but this action is still ancillary to what’s happening on the porch. In this way, the set is an apt metaphor for the play’s plot — and for the mind itself; we glimpse but never fully see inside until we need to.
“Proof” is beautiful, too, in that it’s a family story, one that so many can relate to, and yet it’s not. The worry of becoming like our parents, and thus, inheriting their illnesses is truly paralyzing. But how many of us have mathematical geniuses amongst our kin? There’s more, but again I don’t want to say too much.
Return patrons will recognize Bruce Randolph Nelson cast in this play as Robert, the gifted father. Last season, he also played patriarch as an Amish father faced with loss in “Everything is Wonderful” — this was a character as stoic and minimal as “Proof’s” Robert is manic. And Nelson is equally convincing in both roles.
Megan Anderson plays Claire, Catherine’s successful older sister, and Jeremy Keith Hunter is Hal, one of Robert’s students. Claire is concerned for her sister and also guilt ridden on what she believes caring for their father has done to Catherine. Hal is both dorky and delightful as a young mathematician. These are sincere characters and people you want to watch.
Catherine steals the show with a shocking admission that earns audience applause. Played by Katie Kleiger, she is both confident and self doubting, bold and yet reduced by her caretaker role. Her honesty and her evolution drive the plot.
All of it makes for a poignant two hours, and in my case, a well-spent afternoon. But don’t take my word as proof: Go see it.