Saturday, April 16, 2022

WOBT-Prattville: "Proof"

David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play Proof  [2000] is finishing its run at Prattville's Way Off Broadway Theatre this weekend. 

Arguably the most polished production at WOBT in a long time, with first-time director Sandra Hataway guiding a stellar four-member ensemble of actors through the complications of its plot, the naturalism and credibility of each of the performances from start to finish warrants praise.

Catherine [Alex Rikard] has dropped out of college and sacrificed a promising career in mathematics to care for her math-genius father Robert [Jason Bush], who is seen in flashbacks and in Catherine's imagination, and whose mental instability suggests to Catherine that she might have inherited both his mathematical abilities and his mental problems. Her sister Claire [Kristen VanderWal] has had a successful career and paid the household bills, and returns for Robert's funeral and shows concern for Catherine's welfare. Robert's protege Hal [Jay Russell] has been studying his mentor's notebooks, wondering whether they might contain some "proof" about prime numbers that indicate the man's genius had not left him.

There's not much physical action in Auburn's intelligently cerebral script, though the conflicts between siblings, potential romance between Catherine and Hal, and a deftly managed parent-child relationship provide ample tension and cause for audience engagement and emotional connection with the characters.

When, at the end of Act I, Hal's study of a notebook indicates a landmark mathematical proof that would both rescue Robert's reputation and ensure Hal's own career advancement, Catherine claims that she wrote the proof herself. -- And we watch as she attempt to assert her own mathematical abilities while still questioning whether her father's mental health will likewise impact her. -- Though not completely resolved at the end, at least Hal is willing to listen to Catherine's arguments.

With a company of actors who preserve the integrity of a masterful script, and a finely tuned investigation of universal human relationships, Proof at WOBT is one of the most satisfying productions recently in the River Region.