Sunday, April 13, 2003

Proof (Cleveland Play House)

'PROOF' adds up at the Cleveland Play House

You do not have to know anything about math to appreciate 'PROOF,' now on stage at The Cleveland Play House. In fact, there are no math formulas even presented. This is a poignant drama about relationships and the search for self, not numbers.

PROOF is the story of 25 year-old Catherine and her relationships with her brilliant father, estranged sister, and the father’s former student. They are all pieces of the puzzle in the search for the truth behind a mysterious mathematical proof. Questions arise. Who is responsible for the brilliant mathematical results that Hal, the student finds while searching through notebooks that Robert, the father, left behind? Is Catherine following her father on the
path of the fragile line between his brilliance and insanity? Are Hal’s affections toward Catherine real or a put-on to obtain the formula?

PROOF, which recently closed on Broadway, won the 2001 Tony Award for Best Play,
the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Broadway Play. It has been called "stunning and riveting , ""rich and compelling," "full of life, laughter and hope," and "One elegant piece of work."

Seth Gordon, who recently was given a Times Theatre Tribute Award for his direction of 'THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD' at Dobama Theatre, again is right on his directorial target. The play is well-staged, has a clear purpose, and achieves its goal. Only the very ending is slightly flawed by a lack of finality in the closing speech. The audience was unaware that the play was over.

Derdriu Ring is nothing short of brilliant as Catherine. Her flaming red hair and flashing eyes
light up the stage. She flows from depression, to satire, to glee with ease. Mike Hartman as the father and Carol Dunne as Catherine’s sister Claire are also excellent. There is clarity and consistency in their performances. Only Chad Willett, as the student, falters. His is not a bad performance, it just lacks depth. He stays on the surface, his concentration sometimes slips, and he often acts rather than reacts to his lines and those of others.

Michael Ganio’s set is wonderful. The backstage porch is appropriately surrounded by hundreds of suspended student theme books. He wisely pulled the whole set forward, toward the audience, thus creating the closeness that the Baxter Theatre’s designers had promised.

Capsule judgement: The Cleveland Play House has selected a brilliant play well-worth performing and given it a wonderful interpretation. Go see PROOF!