ACT delivers Proof
by Christopher Key
Most of us don’t really see Anacortes because we’re usually rushing to catch the San Juan Ferry. Let’s face it, that humungous Shell refinery isn’t really the most attractive gateway to a city. The main drag, Commercial Street, lives up to its name with one tacky strip mall after another. However, if you go straight instead of turning left toward the ferry, you’ll find yourself in a charming, relaxed village full of brew pubs and boutiques. You could say Anacortes is a bit bipolar.
Which brings us to the point of why I was in Anacortes to start with. Theatre friend Emily Lester is in a show at Anacortes Community Theatre (fortunate acronym, that) and invited me to come write a review. No, Emily is not bipolar and neither am I. At least not any more than most actors. But playwright David Auburn’s Proof is a scorching examination of the relationship between genius and madness. Are all geniuses madmen? Are all madmen geniuses? Having recently played a character who had a lot of both, I can tell you that the dividing line, if there is one, is not easily discerned.
Robert was a brilliant mathematician who increasingly suffered from mental illness as he aged. He just died and his daughter Catherine has inherited at least some of his mathematical genius. But has she also inherited the madness? And where’s the proof?
Hal is a former student of Robert’s who believes the late Professor may have found a long-sought proof for a theorem involving prime numbers. Catherine’s sister Claire has just arrived to take charge of the funeral, Catherine’s life and the universe as a whole. Oh, and Robert’s ghost keeps hanging around to watch the fun.
It’s set in the late Professor’s home in Chicago and director Billy Hendrix also designed the lovely set, which takes advantage of the theatre’s idiosyncrasies. Emotional roller-coaster would be a vast understatement for this script. It’s loud, raw, obscene and no wonder Emily wanted to be in it. This show is all about the actors, how much they trust each other and how much they trust Hendrix. A lot, to judge by the result.
|Kat Rose Agnew and Emily Lester play battling sisters in Proof. Photo credit - Christopher Key|
Kat Rose Agnew plays the long-suffering daughter who has cared for her father at home rather than institutionalizing him. Agnew has a marvelously expressive face that she uses to great effect, going from flippant to frightened to furious within the same scene and never missing a twitch. She’ll mesmerize you, then tell you where to put it.
|Calvin Brown plays the mad mathematician in Proof. Photo credit - Christopher Key|
Dad’s ghost is the most obstreperous revenant imaginable, roaring and howling and generally making Catherine’s life more miserable than it already is. Calvin Brown plays him with truly trigonometric authenticity, right down to that ineffable gleam of madness in the eye.
Friend Emily, well-known to Whatcom County audiences, plays Claire with unshakable faith in her own sanity and ability fix everything, broken or not. Lester has an extraordinarily wide range as an actor and can do brittle with the best of them. You keep wondering if the character will shatter into shards before your eyes.
|Sam Guzik plays uber-geek Hal in Proof. Photo credit - Christopher Key|
How much of an uber-geek is Hal, the former student seeking the elusive proof? He plays drums in a band of fellow mathematicians whose claim to fame is a three-minute song with no words or music. Sam Guzik plays him to Nerd Nirvana, occasionally charming, but normally as annoying as a car alarm.
I saw this show a while back at Mount Baker Theatre’s Summer Rep, where most of the actors were professionals and with the considerable resources of MBT to draw on. The ACT version doesn’t give them a centimeter. It’s every bit as well-done.
So hop in the Tesla and give yourself time to enjoy a meal at one of those Anacortes bistros before the play. Proof runs May 27 – June 18 at the playhouse on the corner of 10th and M Streets. Tickets are $20 and available by calling the box office at (360) 293-6829, major credit cards accepted. Access the ACT website for precise dates and times.
Proof contains adult themes and language and may be unsuitable for younger children.
# # #