Review: PROOF at Backyard Renaissance

Playing through December 9th

By: Nov. 27, 2023
Review: PROOF at Backyard Renaissance

PROOF from Backyard Renaissance ponders how love, family, and mathematics can bind people inextricably together and make them strangers to each other at the same time.  Math might be hard, but interpersonal relationships and emotions might be an unsolvable mystery. PROOF is playing at the 10th Avenue Arts Center through December 9th.

The play opens just before Catherine (Liliana Talwatte) turns twenty-five. Soon, joined by her father Robert (Francis Gercke) they celebrate her birthday.  Robert is a certifiable math genius, having made revolutionary strides in the field by the time he was Catherine’s age, but now he lives in his house, cared for by Catherine as he suffers from mental instability.  

Review: PROOF at Backyard Renaissance

After he passes away, one of his students Hal (William Huffaker) comes to look through Robert’s notebooks to see if any of his math genius was preserved in Robert’s many notebooks.  When Catherine’s sister Claire (Wendy Maples) arrives to help get everything in order for the funeral, Catherine finds herself contemplating the next steps of her life, where her talents may take her, and if so, at what price.

Never fear if you don’t have a head for math, the play is a study on what happens when the logic and orderliness of math are confronted head-on by the emotional - when logical intellect meets illogical emotion and human frailty.  Can one make sense of the incomprehensible number of variables that come with being human?

Directed by Anthony Methvin the play's cast has good chemistry and moves quickly as the long weekend unfolds.  The porch set by Yi-Chien Lee hints at the interiority of the home itself and the cluttered mental state of its inhabitants.  Lighting by Curtis Mueller works well, with a lovely moment in the second act underscoring as things are starting to dim in the real world.

Talwatte’s Catherine offers many moments of duality in personality and conviction - vulnerable and spiky, with moments of happiness that shine through. As her father’s caregiver, she is conflicted and indecisive about how to move into life without him, and also afraid she might be more like him than she knows. 

Wendy Maples radiates “big sister” energy in the best possible way. She is fiercely protective of her family, even as she pushes and prods to try to make sense of them herself.  She may be critical of her family, but will not allow anyone else to do so.

Review: PROOF at Backyard Renaissance

Gercke as Robert is warm and loving, enjoying this mathematical connection with Catherine while also battling sudden mood swings. Huffaker as Hal has similar character swings, though his are driven more by suspicious motives and mansplaining.

 Are genius and madness an avoidable pairing?  Are women mathematicians rare because of prejudice, gender, or both?  Is Catherine troubled like her father or just a grieving twenty-five-year-old? Can you ever know anything in this life with the surety and elegance of mathematical proof?

PROOF presents itself as something more insightful than it is; exploring themes and leaving them open without any guaranteed or satisfactory conclusion as if in defiance of its title reference.

How To Get Tickets

PROOF is playing at the 10th Avenue Arts Center through December 9th by Backyard Renaissance.  For ticket and show time information go to backyardrenaissance.com


Photo Credit: Daren Scott and Backyard Renaissance




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