A Capital show!
The title of the play hints at a whodunit, and there’s an aspect of the mystery genre in this 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Auburn. For example, who wrote the 40-page mathematical proof that turns up midway through the play? Was it the revered and periodically deranged math professor in whose tumbledown home the story is set? Or was it his standoffish 25-year-old daughter, who may have inherited both her father’s intellect and fragility of mind?
That thumbnail plot summary doesn’t do justice to this intimate, illuminating script, a tale told largely through small (but crucial) gestures. It’s a miracle of economy, featuring only four characters and etching a complex set of differing relationships: father/daughter, sister/sister, teacher/student and strangers who become lovers.
Proof has been staged locally once before. That touring production, hosted by the Broadway Series, suffered from being presented in the vast 2,400-seat Community Center Theater, which put most of the audience too far away from the actors. The 115-seat Delta King theater is a nearly ideal environment for Proof, and this production by Capital Stage is one of those frabjous happenings in which many elements land simultaneously in the right places.
The cast is solid. Local professional Stephanie Gularte is suitably conflicted as the gutsy yet yielding daughter. She shares her father’s uncanny ability with math yet finds herself challenged in social situations outside the home. Rodger Hoopman, a local pro who’s usually seen in musical theater, turns in an impressive dramatic performance as the father. He’s concerned and loving, aware that he’s increasingly impaired and trying hard to manage against the receding tide.
Karen Pollard plays his other, older daughter. While well-organized and better able to deal with everyday life, she’s understandably envious of the family’s wild gift. Completing the cast is Brett Williams, as a 28-year-old grad student. He’s simultaneously a math nerd and something of a hunk, an academic late bloomer and hanger-on, who also plays in a rock band. He’s not a great mind, but he’s basically a good guy.
Director David Harris paces things smartly yet unobtrusively, making savvy use of the small stage. The set by Jonathan Williams is lovely, and Peter Mohrmann’s all-Bach sound design is a fine fit.
Proof is the best show, overall, that Sacramento has seen thus far this year and a strong candidate for year-end honors. It’s also the fourth strong effort this season from Capital Stage. This small professional company is shining; catch the glow.