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As audiences return to local theatre after long hiatuses, there is a sense of sentimentalism as we enter familiar spaces like Davidson Community Players' Armour Street Theatre. Even if you've never entered that specific venue before, like myself, there is something so nostalgic about it. Seemingly transformed from a church, the theater is small and quite compact. Nevertheless, for last night's production of Proof, by David Auburn, you could swear all of Davidson had come out to support the show. This provided a lovely ambience for the production.
The show focuses on a family, both plagued and enchanted by complex mathematics. The intimate setting for the play was occasionally difficult to watch, due to the size of powerful emotions that sweep over the protagonist, Catherine. She is the daughter of the eccentric Robert. A mathematics professor, scholar, and genius, Robert has spent a lifetime developing equations and theories. He is driven by a passion for math that has halted as he has aged. His mind, or "machinery," starts to fail him, and Catherine must do what she can to care for him, leaving her youth and education to the side. A brilliant mathematician herself, she is also haunted and enamored with numbers, much to the dismay of her sister, Claire, a successful currency analyst, New Yorker, and wife-to-be. When Robert passes away, Catherine finds a strange connection with his former student, Hal, amidst her grief and desire to move forward.
It is clear that director Sylvia Schnople saw math as the thread that wove this family together. The downstage right and left set dressings are large blackboards, filled with pages and writings of messy equations. Appropriately, mathematic scribbles can be seen in the windows of the house as well. The set itself is a blend of magical and true-to-life realism, culminating in the representation of an old house's front porch. As the scenes take place at different times of day, the lighting alternates from cool evening to warm morning. This is underscored with ethereal instrumentals that spark a mild curiosity prior to the show and between scenes. The technical choices resulted in a relatively simple environment for the acting, which served this production quite well at times.
Haley Sanders' Catherine was an acquired taste when she first appeared. With a penchant for the bottle and sprinklings of profanity, Catherine is loud and a little crass in Act I. However, as the show continues, Sanders found a deep authenticity to her character's stages of grief, showing us that life after a parent's passing is neither pretty nor easy. Though Emily Klingman's Claire is much more pleasant from the get-go, Catherine played a powerful contrast to her well-put-together sister. The relationship between these two was certainly one of the more genuine performances of the show. However, it must be said that the dynamic between Robert and Catherine was absolutely heart-wrenching as the show drew to a close. The tenderness with which Sanders approached Catherine's relationship with her father was beautifully touching, a gentle reminder to love our family members even in their darkest times.
Davidson Community Players' Proof manages to bring the intimacy of family to an equally intimate space. It deals with intense emotions and the misunderstandings that happen within families. The math is only one layer of such profound relationships. As DCP continues to return to normalcy, consider supporting them with your patronage to this production. Auburn's script lends itself to the exploration of our own familial relationships, and the show will provide you with such thoughts as well as a night of entertainment authentic to the Davidson community.
Proof continues at the Armour Street Theatre through Sunday, March 13. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.