February 12, 2005

Proof

I can't believe I almost didn't go to this show.

Last night, I didn't get back home until almost 7, and I thought I was going to miss my last chance to see Proof, this weekend's studio show. But I whipped up a quick sandwich, fed my dog, and made it over there right at 7:30, in time for the show. I knew pretty much nothing about it, although I'd heard it was good.

It was great! Knox people reading this should make time in their schedules to go see it tonight (or, I think it's actually got a matinee tomorrow, but you should check). The cast of four did a fabulous job at portraying people with various close relationships to the ivory tower, and the writing made it clear that the playwright had a lot of familiarity with the culture. You spend most of your time wondering what's really going on, and just as you think you've figured it out, they throw you for another loop. (Best Act One closing line, ever, by the way.)

Jackie Dehne was the lead, "Catherine" (aka "Cat", "Kit", "Kitty", "Cathy", and a few others---you'd think that they'd be more consistent), onstage for nearly all of the two hour production. She was on an incredible emotional roller coaster, and carried the audience right along with her. One of the things that most impressed me was her ability to take the dialogue and make it her own (some credit for this probably goes to the director, Helen Drysdale, as well): I wouldn't have thought that anyone could utter the word "yikes" unironically, for instance, but she made it sound just right. How can you say something like, "Don't lie to me, I'm smarter than you!"? But she did, and it worked (and she was right). There were a lot of other places where she delivered a line with just the right sarcasm, or frustration, or whatever, to make it sound perfect, where the words printed in the script would certainly not have read so naturally.

Loren Lindgren (known around campus as "Blanket Guy", in which context I've mentioned him before) as the father was quite good, although there were several places where I felt like he was Acting. That is, he was doing pretty good at displaying the right emotions at the right time, but hadn't quite crossed that threshold from "good" to "great" where the audience really forgets that there are actors up there... he was doing all the right things in any way I could identify, and there was still a je ne sais quoi that was missing. I really can't fault it, though, as I might not have even noticed if the others hadn't been so exceptional.

Eden Newmark, as Claire, suffered no such difficulty. From the start, she played a character who meant well, in that sort of abstract way that people sometimes do. She probably gives to the right charities, but only because it's the done thing, not out of any real spirit of charity. She would almost certainly send her kids off to boarding school, at great expense, purportedly to get them the best education---but not unaware that this will also keep her own life less interrupted. None of this came out through the dialogue, of course, but through the acting. Newmark managed to play the most infuriating character, saying the most hurtful and distrusting things, all the more infuriating because you just knew that Claire had no idea how hurtful and distrusting they were, and really thought she was doing the right thing. At great personal cost, she might add. There were really points that she made you want to throttle her, just run up on the stage and throttle her, she was so maddening. (In many ways, she served as the tracks, or possibly the lifts, for Catherine's emotional roller coaster---Newmark and Dehne played off each other really well.)

I'm a little curious whether Matt Allis has any relatives or friends in grad school. He played "Hal", the former grad student and current professor; and seriously, I've known that guy. He has his interests, just like everyone else, and things he gets excited about; and then he has Interests, that he gets really excited about, that will raise his blood pressure and get him talking about twice as fast as normal, all over an elegant but novel deduction about some mathematical theorem. Right on.

The show is about a few really smart, precise people (plus Claire), going through the same sorts of emotional problems as anything else. Abstract out the people and the main themes of the show will be things like trust, and dignity of life, and familial bonds and responsibilities. But lots of shows are about that stuff. This one got a standing ovation from me.

"This is what happens when you don't let gays marry... they start designing out of spite." --Jon Stewart

Posted by blahedo at 3:34pm on 12 Feb 2005
Comments
First off, what's with this number stuff? I'm bad at math. Anyway, sounds like a good show. I can't even remember the last time I saw a good play. Maybe I need to write one. Better call Ben. Posted by Chris at 3:11pm on 14 Feb 2005
Nope, no relatives or friends in Grad school. Posted by Matt Allis at 9:33pm on 12 Feb 2006
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