note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Raymond ZuWallack
Reviewed by Raymond ZuWallack
Proof, by David Auburn, which opened Nemasket River Productions 2015 Season this past weekend, is a warm exploration of one mathematical family plus a mystery. This production is staged on the back porch of an old house in Chicago. The set by Max Verga feels, before a line has been spoken, as if it has been battered by decades of Chicago’s schizophrenic weather. The music is amazing, Michael Pevzner, the director, has chosen music that begins, continues and ends the play in a satisfying emotional way.
I'm not a professional play reviewer. I don't follow any rules except that I'm not going to spoil the plot for you. I'm not going to turn this brief review into a "book report.” The story line of this play touched me in many ways. My own mother had advanced Alzheimer's and died in a nursing home as did my father. There are few days that go by when I don't wonder at some point whether someday I will meet a similar fate. I think of myself as kind of a tough guy; yet I found myself fighting back tears mere minutes after curtain rising. The skilled, beautifully timed, powerful interchanges between lovely, auburn haired Catherine and her frail, tottering, "lost", but still handsome daddy, got to me quickly....and I stayed spellbound till the end. So poignant....and so relevant to today's world and the many stresses of any given family. Despite this story line, there is a lot of humor in this play, the nature of family relationships can be very funny. I even got the math jokes!
The play opens with Catherine (Alanna Bassett) in a midnight conversation with her father, Robert (Paul McCuen). Robert was a University of Chicago mathematician of startling originality in his youth who falls prey to bouts of mental illness. The actors engage the audience immediately. Bassett, despairing and fragile as Catherine, McCuen, quirky yet forthright as Robert. The other characters: Hal (James Gifford), a former Ph.D. student of Robert’s who now teaches at University of Chicago, whose math “geekiness” endears him to the audience from his first entrance and Catherine’s older sister, Claire (Grace Carlozzi), the one non-mathematician, who has the thankless job of bringing order to this chaotic time, does it with humor and feistiness. These actors inhabit their roles bringing laughter, insight and emotional depth to the play. They are generous actors who connect to the audience from the start and directed by the visionary Pevzner, weave this production into one seamless evening.
I would also like to point out in my review the very creative production staff. The light and sound designer, Grant Waterman with his son Nicholas on technical board, along with “shining the light” on the scenes, this father and son team create lyrical autumn mornings and nights full of police sirens and “geeky” rock bands. Kudos to Stage Manager, Malorie Savran for her artful, skilled "dance" in semi-darkness as she makes the scene changes and Holly Leach the intrepid prop mistress who fills the stage with the paraphernalia of backyard stuff, finally, the costumer, Maryanne Spence who dresses her cast in character defining ways that complete this very satisfying theatrical experience by Nemasket River Productions.
Check this out please; go see for yourself. Nemasket River Productions’ track record for bringing to the region worthy plays, is quite impressive. But this time--this time-- this proud theatre troupe has outdone itself. It has on its hands something very special, something you shouldn't miss.
PROOF will continue for two more weekends, April 24th, 25th, May 1st & 2nd at 8pm. All performances can be combined with a “Dinner and a Show” special, a dinner theatre experience in collaboration with Lorenzo’s (Rte. 28, Middleboro) 508-947-3000. Three course meal including glass of wine, taxes & gratuities for $20.00 bring receipt to the box office before the show and tickets are only $15.00. For more info about NRP please visit their Facebook page or their website: www.nemasketriverproductions.com or call their box office 866 -244-0448 for reservations. Credit card purchases via Brown Paper Tickets through website and at the door.