The demise of a mathematician brings three conflicting personalities onto the Mainline stage for a heavy conversation about mental illness.
In David Auburn’s Proof, Catherine has spent five years caring for her brilliant yet unstable father, Robert. Hailed a genius in his youth, the mathematician suffered from various mental disorders that required constant attention from his youngest daughter. After his death, Catherine loses her sense of purpose and struggles with depression. She is bothered by Robert’s former student, Hal, who wants to analyze his frantic scribbles for a trace of his genius. Tensions rise when her sister Claire appears for the funeral and attempts to bind Catherine’s life back together. The course of the play then reveals how much of her father’s wisdom and madness passed onto her, and how she might cope with it.
Director Nicholas Stamiris-Haze said that the script emphasizes the dread that children will develop their parent’s ailments, and works on many levels to show how dramatic the results can be. The anticipation of going crazy drives Catherine into a state of deep depression after her father’s passing, and she rejects the kind of care she once offered him.
The young woman at the centre of the show demands a captive audience. Alexandra Przybyla as Catherine commands almost every scene, and sets the tone with a striking mood. She has moments of fire that are absolutely gripping. Yet when she falls back into a soft, silent depression it echoes throughout the theatre.
Anna Burkholder plays her older sister, Claire, who swoops in to take over the position of caregiver following their father’s death. Her bubbly, optimistic attitude is sharp contrast to Catherine’s volatile temperament. The two women have incredible onstage chemistry. Their scenes together are the most gripping moments of the production.
Gabriel Infante portrays the math student Hal, who is initially a nuisance to Catherine’s mourning but quickly transforms into her love interest. He doubts Catherine’s abilities to perform professional mathematic equations. The two are often in conflict, and their moments of intimacy are stiff. Though at times awkward, they maintain the relatable chemistry of two people who are not in love but deeply in need of care and attention.
The deceased mathematician Robert makes several brief appearances, played by James Rae. These are the slowest moments of the show, however. The character is inconsistent and perhaps needs refining to sensitively portray a mentally troubled elder.
Indeed – the conversation in Proof is rich, but the script does move slowly. Many of the scenes lack intensity or direction. The production as a whole is compelling but unpolished, and endures almost thirty minutes longer than necessary.
However, Proof is a unique piece that radically addresses mental illness in a dysfunctional household, dealing with intense subject matter and steadily escalating into unpredictable drama. It is relatable to anyone who experiences or anticipates mental instability personally or familially. The subplot offers a clever connection to mathematics as a means of coping and understanding illness. The language is comprehensible to any math level, so do not feel deterred if it’s an unfamiliar subject. Embrace this show with a patient mind and keep an open heart to those who suffer both onstage and off.
Snowglobe Theatre presents this show in the hopes to shed light on mental health through art. In partnership with L’Abri en Ville, they will host a fundraiser show on March 12 to raise money for adults living with mental illness. For more information and to reserve tickets to the event, visit www.snowglobetheatre.org/proof.
Snowglobe Theatre presents David Auburn’s Proof
Performances: March 7-9 and 13-16 at 8pm, 10 and 17 at 2pm
Venue: MainLine Theatre (3997 Blvd. Saint-Laurent)
Admission: Regular $25 | Student $22
Box Office: www.mainlinetheatre.ca | 514-849-3378