Walking into the Keen Theater for RC Players’ Proof (a play by David Auburn) this past weekend, the first impression I got of the play was from the set. Resting center, it took up the width of the stage, connected by hinges and locks that create a fold out living room. It was a living room with discarded papers and pizza boxes scattered across surfaces and the floor; a sight I couldn’t say was unfamiliar to me as I looked back on my four years of college and thought of the leaning stacks of papers and folders that at that moment were sitting on my desk at home.
In reading the Director’s Note in the program, the directors’, Emma McGlashen and Sophia Kaufman, closing remarks were forefront in my mind as the show started: “The language regarding mental illness in the play is casual and the characters’ conversations are not overly concerned with being appropriate or sensitive. We have worked to ensure that these moments reflect the characters’ pain, rather than a flippancy we do not share”.
This seemed a well crafted statement that deserved acknowledgement in a play that deals with difficult issues of mental illness, grief, family, and genius. And I think their efforts were put to good use- their interpretation allowed audiences to see a family grappling with elements outside their control in whatever ways they could find to articulate them.
Given that, the play was surprising humorous. This was due in large part to the dynamic and sarcastic attitude of the lead Catherine, played by Nicole Banchik. She was convincing and engaging presence- whether she was playing opposite her father, her possible love interest, or her sister. The second half of the play, after an intermission in which we got to witness the set transform and unhinge from a living room into an outdoor courtyard, we saw tensions rise between all characters. The chemistry between Catherine and her father, played by Cameron Flynn, was somehow deepened in the second half- I believe through a combination of the written flashbacks and the greater amount of stage time that allowed Flynn to add distinct elements to his character such as the crossed arms or the exasperated hand gestures of an elder man.
Overall, it was a well crafted show and an excellently selected cast that worked well together to present a story of family and math related puns!