BWW Review: The Theoretical Existence that is Nu•ance Theatre Co.'s PROOF

BWW Review: The Theoretical Existence that is Nu•ance Theatre Co.'s PROOFSome people live out their lives in a way so structured, so foolproof against variance or change, it may not be considered living at all. Existence becomes almost mathematical, confined to formulaic methods and "things that work" instead of filled with emotions - a safeguard against the outside world, the unknown. One can only wonder what this feels like. Some would call this the loss of potential, while others would consider this disciplined person brilliant; it really depends on who you ask.

When we enter the world of a sickly mathematician with an unprecedented mind and his daughter, life indeed becomes nothing but workable theorems and proofs - where the infallible exists because of time, the lack of human error...and essentially the lack of humanity. Proof depicts the crumbling lives of a genius and his protégé, a daughter who must take care of her ailing father, and the equations that remain impeccably true, while the people are debatably losing their grip on whatever reality they have.

Now being performed by the Nu•ance Theatre Co. (in association with John DeSotelle Studio) and under the direction of John DeSotelle, Proof is the Pulitzer-Prize winning play by David Auburn that provides audiences with much to think about...even if we understand little of the actual theorems themselves. This entire show is wonderful in that it equates the universality of math with the very specifics of how people live their lives - simple numbers that take the place of human emotions to the point where people are trying to prove theorems over love - trying to make equations work over how they should be functioning. It is a play that not only seeks to prove an equation that can exist as perfect, but also proves how imperfect we are in the face of ourselves and others. It is the perfect theoretical to what reality has given to these characters, and what ensues cannot be witnessed with anything less than pure fascination.

With a plot that relies on practically everything presented on that stage, from a beautiful set to the actors who so vividly bring these characters to life, it offers those of us fortunate enough to see this production a complete and proper theatrical experience. The show itself is a cluster of emotions as plentiful as numbers on a page, and the audience has little choice but to experience right alongside the characters on stage; the result, I believe, is truly magnificent. The feeling one gets of sitting on a porch, alone, on a chilly evening, a bottle of champagne in one hand and dealing with the recent passing of a parent, segues into a lonely young woman talking to her father who is no longer there, growing affections with her father's former Ph.D student and then trying to figure out why she can no longer live in the only home she knows. There is so much going on, so much that is unsettling and human, it cannot be grouped into a formula - it can only be dealt with. Proof is so powerful, so poignant, and with this production can truly be said to have been done right.

Proof brings audiences into the Chicago home of a brilliant mathematician and his daughter - a home with a physical condition which mimics that of its occupants' crumbling mentality. An influential professor who had made major contribution to the mathematic and scientific fields in his younger years, now a sickly man who debatably still has his wits about him. His daughter, Catherine, decided to drop out of college to care for him and never truly got her life back on track from there. After her father's death, Catherine is joined by her sister Claire and recent love interest Hal in the telling of a story about personal fears and infallible proofs - a story where people constantly need to prove to others that they are not "this" or "that," and typically fail. When a supposedly perfect theorem comes into play, people must prove once again that which is true, and that which isn't. This is a story that, from past to present and back again, demands a necessity for these characters to make themselves as unfailing as their theorems...yet they truly do little to prove they, or anything, can be. BWW Review: The Theoretical Existence that is Nu•ance Theatre Co.'s PROOF

Everything about this production is just so well done, the audience cannot help but be affected by what they see on stage. There are many of those moments that characters are so wrought with anger or fear, so consumed by those emotions that seem to just pour out of them, I essentially spent most of the production in uncomfortable awe. I remember times just staring ahead of me - for example, when Catherine tries desperately to convince her sister that the police tried to break their way into her house after a supposed robbery, and that she was alone at the time despite the open bottle of champagne on the railing. I was so engrossed by the sheer emotion of such scenes that I didn't know whether to just sit and watch or be angry that these people can't just "be" and listen to what the other is saying.

Moments like these, when you have to remind yourself to breathe, are an indication of real theater in my mind; fortunately, this production is saturated with them.

Not only that, this entire plot just amazes me because it proves (one of many things being proven here) that people's stories are evaluated based on how other's judge others them and what they consider them to be. The irony of this show is that people have the chance to move on, but they perpetually find "proof" that things aren't right. From Catherine finding constant fault with her sort-of-boyfriend Hal, to never even taking the time to consider enjoYing Living in New York with her sister, her life is just like a giant proof that could never be made quite right. Call it faulty wiring with the world, I suppose, but this play is just riveting in using something so finite as math to represent something so utterly chaotic as life - it works so beautifully, and I absolutely loved how the audience can even empathize with the characters on stage so accurately. I know that I did, and I adore productions that can make a person feel so complete and so utterly imperfect at the same time.

Nu•ance really has a knack for casting its actors as well, as everyone in this show is amazing. Judith Feingold as Catherine, Gene Pope as her father, Whitney St. Ours as Claire and Kyle Begley as Hal really made this a wonderful experience; I would gladly review any show in which this cast made an appearance. Credit must be given to Assistant Director Emily DeSotelle, Matt Imhoff (Scenic and Lighting Designer), Megan Culley (Sound Design/Projections), Carly Katz (Costumer) and John Rearick as Stage Manager.

In brief, this show is a absolute triumph.

Nu•ance Theatre Co.. presents Proof, now in performances thru August 20th on the John DeSotelle Studio Main Stage at the Times Square Art Center (located 300 West. 43rd Street). Tickets are $25-$35 and can be purchased by visiting www.NuanceTheatre.com. The remaining two performances are Saturday @ 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm. The company also offers Meisner-based actor training, workshops and how to audition for productions; information for which can be found on the website as well.

Enjoy the show!

Photo Credit: Tristan Pope Photography




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