Monday, August 23, 2010

Proof of Life by Beverly Creasey

I’ve seen David Auburn’s Pulitzer and Tony winning play {PROOF} before – but it never added up to much (for me) until I saw the Independent Drama Society’s fiercely intelligent production (playing through Aug. 28th). I watched the DVD starring Anthony Hopkins the evening after I saw the IDS production and it didn’t come close to summoning up the energy of director Chris Anton’s version. (Auburn’s screenplay completely sacrifices the comedy for some inexplicable reason …but, hey, I’m not here to review the film.)

On the one hand, PROOF can mean conclusive evidence, and on the other, it can mean the process of checking the validity of a mathematical computation – but you needn’t have heard of Fermat’s last theorem to be swept up in the (algo)rhythms of the story. Auburn plays the meaning of “proof” both ways in his engrossing drama about trial and error and fathers and daughters.

The father in PROOF was a brilliant mathematician before his “beautiful” mind began to deteriorate. (For the record, Auburn wrote his play before “A Beautiful Mind” was published.) The daughter who took after her father, mathematically speaking, gave up her studies to look after him. Now she’s confronted by an overbearing sister and a former student of her father’s who wants to peruse his notebooks, not to mention the fear that she may end up just like him. She’s a bit strung out, to say the least.

Kate Daly is a revelation as the depressed, defensive daughter who prefers to be left alone…but who blossoms, despite herself, into a beautiful woman in love. Daly and Chris Larson transform what is “theoretically physical” into gorgeous physicality in their oh-so-sweet love scene. Kudos to director Anton for her elegant touches which enliven each scene (like the breakfast confrontation over a bagel or the funny post-party entrance of the unkempt, hung over sister). Kara Manson makes the most of the controlling sibling role and Mark Bourbeau breaks your heart as the disintegrating genius sure he is receiving “mathematical messages from the universe.”

Every element of PROOF dovetails seamlessly, from Lindsay Eagle’s character-perfect costumes to Larson’s note-specific musical choices to Kirsten Opstad’s enormous set of a house (in the postage stamp Piano Factory space!) to Kimberly Smith’s evocative lighting. The Independent Drama Society proves itself to be a prime company to watch.