The play centers on Catherine, the daughter of Robert, a now-deceased 50ish professor at the University of Chicago, who is considered a mathematical genius by his peers and students but struggled with mental illness. This fact amplifies her struggles with moving on following his death and her own concerns about the potential of her own mental illness. Catherine cared for her father during his lengthy decline, abandoning her own education at Northwestern. After Robert’s death, an ex-grad student, Hal, finds a potentially paradigm-shifting proof about prime numbers in Robert’s office while going through dozens and dozens of notebooks left upon his death. The play’s title refers both to that mathematical proof, as well as answering the central question around who authored the proof – Robert or Catherine.
Director Karen Paisley’s taut and intimate adaptation of this script keeps the audience engaged throughout and deserves plaudits for the spot-on casting and excellent technical elements of the production, delivered by her crew, including lighting, sound and set. In addition, the musical selections played during the interludes perfectly complement the presentation and are a welcome bonus.
The cast completely inhabits their characters. Their relationships and interactions are natural and heart-felt. The audience voyeuristically watches the complex drama that plays out immediately in front of them.
As an aside, one of the wonderful elements of attending a play at the Warwick is the “immersive experience” with the immediacy and emotions of the play literally within your reach.
The cast is led by Brandis Outlaw, as Catherine, who expertly delivers the range of emotions necessitated by the lead role, showing vulnerability, passion, indignation, doubt, and strength (amongst others) as she deals with her father’s death and revelation of the proof and has to deal with her sister, her father (in “flashbacks”) and Hal – all wanting something different from her.
Kevin Fewell, as the father Robert, effortlessly and effectively shows concern and compassion for his daughter, balanced with the fragility and fear from what he knows is his imminent future. Fewell probably hasn’t seen a character he cannot deliver flawlessly.
Tommy Waller, as Hal, sparkles as the grad student with the tenacity to plow through mounds of notebooks left by his mentor, Robert, as well as the tenderness of attraction he has for Catherine. Waller seems to always make more out of his character than might be expected.
And, Donette Sheree’ Coleman, as Claire – Catherine’s concerned but almost over-bearing sister–provides liveliness and vibrancy in her character. Coleman perfectly plays the range expected of big sister – loving and protective but also insistent and dictatorial.
“Proof” is an engrossing and enjoyable drama delivered with excellent acting and production. “Proof” proves again that local theater can easily outshine most of the productions at the local Cineplex. Check it out…you shan’t be disappointed.
“Proof” continues at the Warwick Theatre now through Jan. 26th (the schedule was extended because of this past week’s bad weather). For ticket information please go to https://www.metkc.org/
Tags: “Proof” review, METKC, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, Warwick Theatre, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment,