The motley collective’s latest outing, after presenting The Rocky Horror Show and The Laramie Project, was David Auburn’s Proof presented last week at The Theatre on King (TTOK).
The story centres on the character of Catherine, a depressed college drop-out living under the shadow of her brilliant mathematician father. He also had severe mental health issues including obsessive behaviour and hallucinations.
In the course of the play, Catherine must confront her fear of inheriting her father’s insanity and proving herself as a mathematician in the wake of her father’s genius, as well as dealing with the complicated relationship she had with her father in the wake of his death.
Proof delves into the complex perceptions and stigmas around mental health and women working in mathematics, detailing a story in which the two intertwine.
The show depicted critiques of hegemonic views toward both women and mental disability, from the nagging sister Claire who thinks she knows what’s best for Catherine, to the issue of when to institutionalize a family member, to the debate on whether Catherine truly wrote the revolutionary mathematical proof discovered in the course of the play.
Rising star of the Peterborough theatre scene Meg O’Sullivan played Catherine, and proved herself in presenting a complicated personality with the rough edges of someone coming into her own under the pressure of her past and future.
Her comic timing and physicality were flawless, while her scenes of fear and vulnerability demonstrated her potential in reaching emotional poignancy on stage.
O’Sullivan captured the extremes of living with and caring for a family member with a mental disability, the frustration, the love, the tenderness, the sacrifice. (Sarah McDonald played Catherine for the Saturday matinee performance.)
Andrew Little played Hal, a former graduate student of Catherine’s father who studies his rambling notebooks searching for a moment of lucid mathematical insight, and ends up falling in love with Catherine. Little’s expressive face and vibrancy brought life into Hal, tackling a complex character who could have been reduced to a stereotype.
Instead of acting a cliché love subplot, Little and O’Sullivan’s strength in building character and chemistry turn the characters’ love story into an examination of trust and healing.
Veteran actor Lyndele Gauci as Claire perfectly embodied the careworn sister searching for a life outside of the shadows that haunt Catherine. Gauci performed a rational and multifaceted character who struggles with her relationship to her family and caring for those with mental health issues. With an obvious focus on the details of physical and vocal characterization, she demonstrated the seamless ability to take on a role for theatre.
R. Keith Smith as Catherine’s father Robert needed a bit of time to work himself into the character when he came on stage, but soon turned himself into a representation of the complex nature of fatherhood and the breakdown of lines between parent and child. As flashbacks show Catherine caring for father, we see the switch in positions of carer and cared for.
Director Amy M. Cummings’ focus on the intimate brought out the narrative depths of Auburn’s writing. Her blocking was naturalistic and dynamic, engaging the audience for the length of the show.
TTOK, a versatile black box theatre space, lent itself beautifully to the one room play.
If there’s one definitive thing to be said about Proof, it’s that the work done by the motley collective and TTOK proves that community theatre continues to be a dynamic and engaging art form addressing current issues and providing insight on various social relationships and cultural dilemmas.
Community theatre truly does foster a community of social consciousness. So support your local theatre and maybe you can learn something about yourself along the way.