Megan Raitano and Melbourne resident Allan Whitehead in PROOF at Theater on the Edge. Photo by Monica Mulder
By JOAN TADDIE
“Proof,” a play with a quartet of characters, three of them mathematicians, and a plot revolving around a proof about prime numbers is the latest offering at Theatre on the Edge, picked by the Orlando Weekly as the “Best New Theatre Company of 2017.” But this David Auburn play, introduced to the Broadway audiences in 2000 and the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, is less about math and more about human fragility.
The hauntingly beautiful music that we hear before the opening scene of the play introduces us to a distraught and depressed Catherine (Megan Raitano). The lyric “This uncertain day is taking me over.” is repeated throughout the song and is played until the entrance of Robert (Allan Whitehead), Catherine’s father. Robert is a mathematical genius, and Catherine has taken care of him since he slipped into madness. He attempts to cheer her up with cheap champagne to celebrate her 25th birthday. He tries to motivate her by pointing out her mathematical ability. “You see? Even your depression is mathematical.” He reminds her that, “By the time I was your age, I had done my best work.” Catherine knows she has inherited her father’s genius; but is madness the price she must pay for this gift?
Auburn’s play takes place in Chicago during the weekend of Robert’s funeral with occasional flashbacks to when, as Robert puts it, “I went bughouse.” Hal (Barry Wright), one of Robert’s former students has been given permission to read through the 103 notebooks that Robert wrote in before his death. Hal hopes to find something important hidden within the writings of a genius gone mad.Claire (Elaitheia Quinn), Catherine’s estranged sister and successful businesswoman, flies in from New York to take care of the funeral arrangements and her sister. This does not go as she planned and tension builds.
This quartet of actors are exceptional. Barry Wright, as the young, awkward, nerdy math geek who’s in love with Catherine, charms with his sweet nature and his clumsy attempts at romance. He shows great intensity and passion in the scene where Catherine searches his backpack.
Elaitheia Quinn is a powerful presence as the self-assertive, pushy sister who tries to “rescue” Catherine from Chicago and their father’s ramshackle house. Ms. Quinn shines in the last scene of the first act when she tries to convince Catherine to move to New York. The confrontation between the two sisters is forceful and compelling.
Allan Whitehead and Megan Raitano, as father and daughter caught in the madness they both share, grab hold of the audience in their scenes together with smart, riveting performances. The scene in the second act where Catherine finds Robert outside in the cold writing furiously in his notebook is heart-stopping and skillfully performed.
What is so interesting about this play is that from the very first scene the audience is given a fact or a piece of information, usually at the end of the scene, that shows that something exists or is true. At the end of the play there is enough evidence, or proof, to confirm Catherine’s claim regarding a proof for a mathematical theorem found by Hal in an additional notebook locked away from all the others.
Director, Marco DiGeorge, pulls the audience into the story with his superb direction, his effective use of lighting, his music choices and his subtle but realistic sounds of the city throughout the play. Add to that the production value of another amazing set design by Samantha DiGeorge, created through the art of hyperrealism, and Theatre on the Edge has another winning production that should not be missed.