Saturday December 16th 2017

“Proof”

Chaon Cross and Erik Hellman - V Over my years, seeing over 250 plays a year, there are many times that I see plays that I have seen time and again. I never mind viewing these plays because each new Director uses his or her vision to re-imagine what the Playwright’s words were meant to spell out. The actors , of course, bring a bit of their personality to the interpretation of the characters, so in many cases, when I am watching a play for the umpteenth time, I may be seeing what appears to be something other that my previous viewing. Such is the case with Court Theatre’s current production of David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Proof”. Set in Chicago, in fact on the campus of the University of Chicago, which is the location of The Court Theatre, this has always been a very Chicago play with the typical Chicago look. In all the previous presentations, we are always in the back yard of what is called a Chicago Bungalow ( a building style that lines the streets of Chicago neighborhoods). In this production, set designer Martin Andrew ( I am sure in conjunction with Director Charles Newell) has provided is with stark walls made of glass panes, a porch with a simple chair and  and a yard swing on the ground level below the cascading stairway from the porch. It is stark, but to the credit of Newell and his creative team, it allows us to spend more time on the words and movement of the actors instead of the set, and by doing this, many of us heard things as we have never heard them before.

For those who do not know anything about “Proof”, let me open your eyes. A genius Mathematician,Robert ( played to perfection by local favorite Kevin Gudahl) has died after a long bout of painful mental illness. During the years of his staying at home instead of teaching and discovering “Proofs”, his younger daughter Catherine ( an outstanding development of the character by Charon Cross) has been caring for him. She has some of his brilliance in math and in order to care for him has dropped out of her own education. As the play opens, it is the night before his funeral and her 25th birthday. There is another sister, now living in New York, who comes back for the funeral, Claire ( deftly handled by Megan Kohl). Catherine has also allowed one of her father’s grad students Hal ( brilliantly played by Erik Hellman) to look through all her father’s notebooks to see just what he has been working on during these years of on again off again sanity.

While Robert has passed away, we get glimpses of him, through flashbacks and through spiritual visits of birthday’s past and present. Catherine is afraid that since she has the mental capacity of her father, or even greater, that her genes might also produce the same illness as she ages. She cannot decide if struggles with what might be and reality are in fact cause for alarm. Claire, on the other hand wants to sell the house and take her back to New York to seek help, because Claire also thinks that Catherine may just be at the brink of “losing it”. Hal, in searching for some type of “Proof” in Robert’s files, is in hopes that what he discovers may just cause him to rise above his associates in the world of mathematics, but along the way finds himself in a relationship with Catherine; a relationship that causes Catherine to reveal something that she had not planned to.

This is where a great deal of tension is added to the story. Not wanting to reveal any more than I need to, I will tell you that there is another notebook, one that is kept in a different place and that Catherine allows Hal to see. Hal finds that this is exactly what he has been looking for- an actual “Proof” and both Claire and Hal believe this to be the work of Robert despite Catherine saying that she is the author of this particular notebook. Did She come up with this “Proof”? Could she have come up with this “Proof”? After all, this is far above her potential as even Hal with a PHD ,hardly understands it in full! The relationship between these characters and the psychological drama is what makes this story so easy to grab on to. But, for those of you who have seen other productions, this is not that story- this is deeper, more moving and in my opinion more complete- in concept, in direction, in technical aspects and in acting performances- let your previous experience be put on the shelf and take a new look at an old friend. You will enjoy!                                                                                                                                                                                                              proof

The production is complete from head to toe and the technical aspects truly help it work. The music/sound by Andre Pluess, and lighting by Keith Parham  are the parts that bring the senses into viewing a solid story that needs to be concentrated on. One cannot afford to miss all the components of this “formula” for telling a story to perfection and you won’t! I suppose the biggest negative to this show is that it only runs through April 14th, so your time is limited. The performance schedule is:

Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

Fridays at 8 p.m.

Saturdays at 3  and 8  p.m.

Sundays 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $45-$65 and can be purchased at the theater box office located on the campus at 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, by phone at 773-753-4472 or online at www.CourtTheatre.org

here are some student discounts and of course “Rush” tix subject to availability, check with the box office or website

There is plenty of free parking ( garage) and if you know Hyde Park, lots of dining spots in the area a few blocks north and East of the theater.

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click “Proof”

Kevin Gudahl and Chaon Cross - H

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