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Davidson Community Players’ {proof} Synchronizes Genius and Art

by | Feb 27, 2022

Sylvia Burton Schnople diminishes the difference between artistic inspiration and mathematical genius with her brilliant direction of {proof}, the mindful opening production of the Davidson Community Players 2022 season.

Schnople, DCPs artistic director harnessed a selective tableau of creative talent to design and score an ingenious outdoor back porch, set somewhere in Chicago where four skilled actors attempt to unravel some of the complex intricacies about one of the most troublesome concerns in of our lives today: mental illness.

{proof} is mathematical genius and creative art. The play weaves the human emotions of love, trust, and faith around numbers and letters, hearts and minds.

The plot is magnificent. No wonder playwright David Auburn earned a Tony Award for Best Play and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama among other prizes that recognized the production of {proof} in 2000.

The message is powerful, and Davidson Community Players’ version of the two-act play is outstanding. Excellent direction, superb acting, clever visuals, and haunting segue keyboard refrains.

Catherine, an intellectual young woman, played by Haley Sanders, wonders whether she has inherited the potential for madness or genius from her father Robert, portrayed by Jonathan Ray. Their relationship hums. Together, Haley and Jonathan deliver their roles with loving credibility—warm, sassy, funny, intellectual, mathematical, caring, and fearful. Convincingly, father and daughter show how Robert’s wandering mind could foster the potential genetic reality of Catherine’s burgeoning fears.

Robert, however, reassures Catherine, as she ponders their relationship, when he dies, “Just because I went to the bughouse, doesn’t mean you will.”

They deliberate theoretical physicism and search the benefits from astrophysics, while Robert appeases his daughters’ skepticism about her own intellect. “People who are crazy don’t go around asking, ‘am I crazy?’” he claims.

Maxwell Greger plays Hal, Robert’s former post-graduate student, who is researching the dead professor’s endless notebooks in search of the truth of a mathematical theory. Hal’s work is complicated by two unexpected discoveries: romance and the authorship of proof. Greger’s excellent portrayal compliments the mathematician’s lunacy.

Catherine’s sister Claire, the non-intellectual of the group, is portrayed by Emily Klingman. Claire travels from New York for the funeral and challenges Catherine’s ability to live alone following their father’s death, creating discord between the siblings. Klingman’s portrayal establishes a delightful contrast to the heavy intellectual and skeptical atmosphere at hand. Her delivery is likable and polished.

Neither Matt Damon’s blackboard figures at MIT in Good Will Hunting or Katherine Johnson’s chalkboard formulas in Hidden Figures can hold a candle to Andrea Santos’s scenic design around the periphery of Jim Kallo’s back porch.

Kallo effectively converted the Armour Street Theatre’s stage into an inviting open backdoor porch giving the actors ample space to interact and deliver their lines. I love it. The audience can’t help but stare in awe at the plethora of mathematical formulas and theories on boards designed by Santos, which set the mood for the challenge that is being performed. It’s superb!

Joey Schnople’s musical design for DCPs {proof} sets the mood from the moment you enter the Armour Street house. His selection of Phillip Glass’s piano compositions lovingly ties together the production. Sylvia asked for music that is mathematical in nature. Decidedly, she got it.

Traditionally, the first production of the Davidson Community Players season deals with a social issue. It is always one of my favorites. This year’s performance of {proof} hits the jackpot.

Don’t be dissuaded by the supposed heaviness of the play’s mathematical theme. It is not at all dark. The story is quite human and touches the heart.

Connie Fisher

Connie Fisher, neé Consuelo Carmona, is a Davidson resident who grew up in Mexico City where she became a journalist and acquired a taste for the theatre. Her preference for work behind the scenes led to an interest in writing reviews—Yale Rep among her favorite troupes. Connie is the author of Doing it the Right Way, the biography of an Italian hatmaker. Her prose appears with 87 other international writers in The Widows’ Handbook. An active, founding member of Lake Norman Writers, Connie just released her latest book, "The Mongrel, Bi-cultural Adventures of a Latina-Scandinavian Youth," a memoir about her years growing up in Mexico.​

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