The gifted pianist, composer and noted wit Oscar Levant was being cheeky when he said, “There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” But it’s a theme explored with unblinking honesty in “Proof,” David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony® Award Best Play winner, opening this weekend on Stagecrafters’ 2nd Stage at the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak.
The title, “Proof,” refers to the long series of calculations required to confirm a mathematical assertion. But it also points to that other required proof – the proof that requires one to show they are a true genius and not another madman.
It’s a tricky subject, but long time Stagecrafter and first-time director Kimberly Wallace gives Auburn’s taut script room to work its magic. A fine ensemble performance by the cast reveals four distinct characters who each have something to prove.
The main character, Catherine (Kathryn Pounds of Roseville) is a brilliant but emotionally frayed young woman. The play opens on the day before her father’s funeral, and we learn that he was a famous genius – a Professor at University of Chicago and the mathematician behind a number of ground-breaking proofs. Tragically, he battled profound mental illness for the last years of his life – with one heartbreaking relapse that gave everyone false hope. Catherine is sulking on the porch while, upstairs, Harold Dobbs (Sumeet Dang of West Bloomfield), a former protégé of the late professor, now an ambitious young instructor, pores over his late mentor’s journals in hopes of discovering any hidden breakthroughs.
Catherine, who had to drop out of college to care for her father, seems to have inherited his aptitude for mathematics – but fears that the gift also brings her father’s daemons. Catherine’s self-doubts are amplified when her controlling sister Claire (Kristin Schultes of Grosse Pointe Park) returns home for the funeral and immediately begins scrutinizing Catherine’s every move. Claire seems bent on assuaging her own guilt about leaving Catherine to care for their father. And so she tries to prove that she’s a good sister… convincing herself that Catherine is unstable and needs her help.
Catherine desperately wants proof of her own sanity. Especially when she finds herself talking to her dead father (Michael Trudel of Grosse Pointe Park). The attractive Harold Dobbs may be just the guy to assuage her fears. But can she trust him? Or is he just desperate enough to steal an original proof and pass it off as his own? Will he save Catherine… or push her over the edge?
“I love the different kinds of relationships the playwright explores with each character. I also like how Catherine spends time figuring out who she is, who she wants to become, and what her past has to contribute to her future,” says director Kimberly Wallace. “This is a story that is about real life. We all have struggled with finding out who we are and how we fit in this world. We have all looked at our parents and wondered, ‘Am I going to be like him/her?’ We all have emotional ups and downs and can never settle into complacency. I think in the human situations in the play there is humor, pathos, and grief. ‘Proof’ gives a taste of real life, our life, to the audience.”
This is a quiet, thoughtful play that you won’t shake off for some time. Be sure to catch it October 18th – 27th on the 2nd Stage at the Baldwin Theatre. Shows are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Two special performances are planned. October 20 is “Sister Sunday.” Sisters or close friends attending together will enjoy the dynamic interaction between the two sisters in the play. Complimentary desserts and beverages will be served during intermission. October 24 is “Half-Price Student Night” for those students with a valid ID.
To further explore some of the real life issues the characters face, 2nd Stage will offer a post-show talkback after each Saturday performance. Geriatric social worker Katharine Smith,of Jewish Family Services will focus on how to deal with the pressures of caring for aging parents while balancing one's own family and career obligations.
Advance tickets for performances are $16 each. Tickets may be purchased online or by phone at 248-541-6430 using Visa or MasterCard. All seats are reserved. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance for an additional $2.00 per ticket. Due to the intimacy of the theatre, there is no late seating. The Baldwin Theatre is located at 415 S. Lafayette, Royal Oak.