Set in present-day Chicago, Louisville Repertory Company’s production of David Auburn's Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof triumphs as equally humorous and heartbreaking. Angela D. Miller’s direction leaves you forgetting that you are at The Bard’s Town Theatre; the household dynamics are genuine and these characters feel authentic.
A genius mathematician may not anchor your family unit, but there are still undeniably recognizable traits up on that stage. This is a story spiraling far beyond variables and theorems; those just serve as a brilliant medium for exploring complicated relationships and questions of human nature. If you have seen the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhaal, I actually found this drama to be all the more moving as the frenzied emotions unfolded live.
The unrest fueled by juxtaposing the relative that “flies in” combating against the one who identifies as a martyr rings true. Julie Streble is perfectly cast as the lead, Catherine, the daughter who sacrificed her youth to serve as caretaker for her mentally ill father. Her facial expressions shift from ferocity to pained vulnerability with riveting ability. Ms. Streble’s hands quaver at just the fitting moments of peak distress, as she exposes her haunted torment: the ghost of her father. Much of Catherine’s instability stems from the fear of just how much she is like her father. Does the proof of genetic genius suggest ominous madness as well?
To further delve into questions of identity, another significant question Proof poses is how much of our persona is defined by how others perceive us? Lenae McKee Price transforms as Catherine’s sister Claire, a part that Ms. Price astutely instills with compassion, offering a fresh perspective outside of Catherine’s resentment. Ms. Price’s talent to manipulate her voice, face, and body language feels remarkable, particularly when considering her most recent star turn in The Bard’s Town’s Collected Stories as Lisa. Both are ambiguous roles where the characters can be interpreted in a cruel light, and yet, are vastly personalities. With Ms. Price’s heart, she has the capacity to render potentially hostile roles with renewed nuances. Claire could easily be reduced to the estranged know-it-all sister who buys her way out of emotional entanglements. However, with Ms. Price’s commitment to at times clenching every muscle, merely raising a single eyebrow, or layering inflection for an inquiry as simple as whether Catherine has used jojoba in her hair (added bonus of witty comic relief), this Claire has humanity.
No one can press your buttons quite like family. Claire is like a double-edged sword to Catherine, much like their father’s genius with mental illness. Despite genuine intentions to bestow emotional support, at times this “support” does more harm than good, undermining Catherine’s self-confidence, all while setting off unraveling self-doubt. Part of what makes this drama so compelling is its realistic portrayal of all kinds of relationships. Observing the flurry of intricate zingers fired back and forth between the sisters reverberates off the stage. Ms. Streble and Ms. Price forge fascinating rivalry that transfixes the audience.
Brad Castleberry tackles the role of gifted mathematician and complex patriarch Robert. With Light Designer John Newman’s vision, from Mr. Castleberry’s opening interaction with Ms. Streble, the audience already feels clued in to an ethereal sense that Robert is an apparition. His fatherly love and ambitious dreams for pride and joy Catherine resonate. Mr. Castleberry will beckon the tear gates as you witness from the heart-wrenching eyes of Catherine the exact moment he descends from promising scholar to warped psychosis.
Completing this star-studded cast is Cory Hardin, who absolutely shines as Hal, the goofy and endearing former protégé of Robert determined to glean any last scribble of potential from Robert’s broken and lost “machinery” of the mind. He also subverts expectations as a “math geek” who is actually quite the charmer, and helps bring out a softer, happier, far more assured side of Catherine.
Louisville Repertory Company not only does this masterful play justice, but also puts forward its own understanding of this profound script through smart, magnetic performances.
Make pre-show dinner service reservations by clicking on the link www.thebardstown.com or calling 502-749-5275 (6:00 PM is recommended).
Advanced reservations are $15 with cash, $17 with credit, and $18 at the door. Normal ticket prices will be $5 off on Sundays, for students (with ID†), or groups of 10 and more.
Visit www.lourep.com for advance reservations.
†Student tickets must be paid for at will-call.
Bellarmine students, you can visit www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C054BADAE22A2FC1-proof for only $10 advance reservation tickets.
Below is a list of all the remaining performance dates and times:
•Thursday, August 28 at 7:30 PM
•Friday, August 29 at 7:30 PM
•Saturday, August 30 at 7:30 PM
•Sunday, August 31 at 5:00 PM
Click here to visit the Facebook event page for any other questions.
Support this Louisville theater production during Labor Day weekend! You will not be disappointed.
Top Photo: Courtesy of Arts-Louisville and Louisville Repertory Company (featuring from the left: Julie Streble, Lenae McKee Price, Cory Hardin, and Brad Castleberry)