Proof Review

Unicorn opens theater season with attention-grabbing play

Herald Correspondent

To open the 2007 drama season, the Unicorn Theatre really scored a winner with their production of "Proof," David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play in the Carl Cherry Center in Carmel.

Thought-provoking and audience attention-grabbing, this contemporary and lively script captures interest and holds it as it proceeds along a rather convoluted path in telling its emotionally meaty story.

There are several flashbacks and they are carefully listed in the program to help the audience keep track of events which would have a puzzling lack of continuity otherwise.

"Proof" tells the story of a young woman (Catherine) who has taken on the task of being the caregiver for her mentally ill father (Robert).

She has dropped out of college to do so and since her father was a mathematical genius, she is afraid that not only has she inherited his genius, but also his insanity.

The play opens with a dialogue between father and daughter on the eve of his funeral.

She sees him, as does the audience, and she speaks to him, but the question is raised about the reality of the scene and whether or not she is hallucinating. Yet there is a real bottle of warm champagne in the scene.

There is another, older, daughter (Claire) who walked away from the situation, but who took over the responsibility of the financial support of her father and sister.

She is a self-contained, emotionally detached person who is interested in doing right for her possibly dysfunctional sibling.

Then there is Hal, a former graduate student of the father who is attracted to the younger sister, but who wants to find some mathematical inspiration and career enrichment by going through the 130 notebooks the professor scribbled in during his illness.

Skip Kadish as the mentally ill father must create an almost chameleon-like emotional persona which he handles very skillfully.

In a heartrending scene when his illness reasserts itself after he has been in remission for a year, he is masterful.

Jennifer Muniz (Catherine) has the role of the willingly self-sacrificing daughter who must not only care tenderly for a difficult sick man, but must also face her fears about herself.

Stony faced, rigidly postured and coldly resistant to offers of help, she portrays the tortured inner depths of personality that make her riveting as she emphatically refuses to accept well-meant advice.

She captures sympathy as she struggles with her internal doubts and demons.

Lynette Graves is the older sister who wants to "do right" by Catherine. Her strong sense of duty is very well projected and she bears up under the coldly vituperative rejection she is the target of.

She shows how her patience is sorely tried, yet her underlying hidden warmth and caring strength are apparent.

When, in two major face-to-face, almost knock-down and drag-out confrontations, Muniz and Graves reveal the full force of the differences and resentments they have toward each other, there was crackling and powerful electricity coming from the stage.

Omar Hussain as Hal, the graduate student who cares for Catherine, also shows strength and purpose in facing up to the intractible reactions of Catherine.

He too, is warm and understanding and there is a well-projected maturity of character which adds humanity to the problems he is faced with. Still, his motivation is questionable as to its true reasons.

Director Carey Crockett guided his fine cast through an intelligently conceived and very well-integrated performance except for some seemingly overlong scene changes.

These were four special people bringing life to the author's ideas in realistic, yet emotionally colored performances, which at times included adult language.

Crockett's sense of theatrical proportion made this a fine beginning for the year and a memorable play that should not be missed.

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