|Playwright David Auburn.
|Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
What makes a good play? It’s a simple question that might lead some to over-analyze an answer to the point of going cross-eyed. Obviously, you have to captivate your audience – well, at least keep them interested for an hour or so. Not only do your characters have to be involved in something dramatic but also keen dialogue is very important. Perhaps violence doesn’t matter, nor does spectacle in a good play. But a fascinating story can keep a play alive when you’d least expect it. What about a play about math? I know it sounds terribly boring and, dare I say, “nerdy,” and perhaps even “dorky.” But Proof by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn is more than that. It is a love story, family drama and mystery all cleverly wrapped in a highly intelligent math equation. A play that had a production at Actors Theatre after its run on Broadway in 2000, it is now playing a limited engagement at the Shelby County Community Theater. I had a chance to see this play Friday night, and I’m sure glad I did.
With professional quality actors and direction, each performer held his or her own in every scene. Sarah East plays Catherine, a grief stricken and stressed out daughter of a world famous mathematician. She is tired, stressed and distant from her sister and shut out from the rest of the world around her. East provides a dynamic of sarcasm and fear as her character teeters on the brink of emotional instability. Ms. East plays well with other actors in the show as well.
In scenes with Claire, played by Candace Weber, East is a rollercoaster of emotion. The two actresses provide a relationship comparable to that of real life estranged sisters. While dealing with Catherine’s attitude and depression, Weber provides strength and remains steadfast in attending her sister’s dwindling emotional well-being. As I mentioned before, Proof is part family drama, part love story. Lance Flint is Hal Dobbs, Catherine’s love interest. As Hal, Flint is a perfect match for East’s Catherine. He is understanding and helpful, with the urgency of a student wanting to learn more about the hereditary genius in Catherine’s family. As Robert, Bill Dunning plays Catherine’s father. A victim of mental illness revealed through snapshot scenes and flashbacks, Dunning appears in only three scenes, but the presence is well-known. Robert’s mental illness is related to schizophrenia, a very complicated disease that is often portrayed in a variety of ways in theater and film. In the second act, we see Robert in a lucid state and at the peak of his illness. Dunning’s grasp on Robert’s illness came across as hyper or even manic rather than dreary and distant. Considering schizophrenia takes on many different forms, Dunning provides yet another perspective of a crippling and somewhat confusing disease.
During his curtain speech, Director Jack Wann announced that this was a bare bones production and that the focus was intended for the acting. If this was Mr. Wann’s intention, then he succeeded. Even with the warning, I have a few suggestions for future productions once the current run comes to an end. As this theater company strives to establish a black box theater motif on the second floor of SCCT, consider establishing a stronger theater aesthetic. Establish where your house ends and where your backstage begins. I enjoy casual theater and have a high respect for the found space studio design. But there is something lost when your stage manager is constantly visible. Additionally, a little pre-show music goes a long way in signaling to your audience when the production is beginning as well as providing a mood for your production. Regardless, it’s hard to give any further criticism for a flawlessly acted show. If you find yourself in Shelby County this weekend, be sure to see Proof at the Shelby County Community Theater.
Starring: Sarah East, Bill Dunning, Lance Flint, Candace Weber
October 12 & 13 at 7:30 p.m.
October 14 at 2:30 p.m.
Shelby County Community Theater
Shelbyville, KY 40065
For reservations call