nytheatre.com review by Charles Battersby
November 4, 2007
Proof won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize when it was produced on Broadway seven years ago, and went on to larger fame when it was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film in 2005. Now it's made its way to the off-off-Broadway scene, where its single setting, small cast, and quiet nature make it seem right at home.
David Auburn's play is about a woman named Catherine (played by Catherine Yeager) whose father, Robert (Richard Vernon), is a famed mathematician. Aside from being a gifted genius, Robert also slowly slipped into insanity in the years leading up to the events of the play. Catherine seems to have inherited her father's flair for numbers, but also may have inherited his mental instability as well.
Catherine finds herself at odds with her non-crazy sister, Claire (Catia Ojeda), who comes to help with a family tragedy, and feels that Catherine is no longer capable of taking care of herself. Catherine also has to deal with Robert's former student, Hal (Richard D. Busser) who has come to sort through Robert's notebooks, in the hope that they might have important work hidden within the volumes of obsessively taken, but deranged, notes.
The plot thickens exponentially when a brilliant mathematical proof is discovered in one of Robert's notebooks. The dry, esoteric subject of arithmetic then becomes the background for an engrossing family drama, accessible even to people who can't tell the difference between a sine and a cosine.
Proof is a tough show, which challenges its audience, rather than seeking out the lowest common denominator; relying on ambiguities in its performance and direction. The cast at the Astoria Performing Arts Center and director Tom Wojtunik do an admirable job with the demanding material, although the production doesn't quite nail the subtleties of the show. Regardless, this production has enough going for it talent wise to hold the audience (especially math nerds who might be in attendance).
APAC has a good deal of resources behind it, so production values are top notch. Michael P. Kramer's set, which depicts the back porch of Catherine's house, is an extremely authentic recreation of such, with windows that give the audience a good view of the functional rooms inside.
This production of Proof isn't going to rival the Broadway run, but theatre lovers and math geeks who haven't seen it live elsewhere would do well to catch this show.