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Theatre review: Proof is worth the trip to the edge of insanity

Sometimes the best thing to do is just let actors act.

Josette Jorge and Minh Ly in the Mnemonic Theatre Productions presentation of David Auburn's Proof.

Josette Jorge and Minh Ly in the Mnemonic Theatre Productions presentation of Proof.

In David Auburn’s award-winning Proof, a week after her 25th birthday, Catherine is about to bury her father, Robert.  While he suffered from mental illness through-out his life, we also discover that he was a math genius.  As Auburn’s story unfolds, we soon discover just how far the apple falls from the tree.

It seems Pulitzer voters love their stories about mathematics and mental illness as both Proof and the book on which the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind was based walked away with a prize in 2001 and 1998 respectively.  And while one can draw parallels, in Auburn’s Proof it is Catherine’s internal anguish in coming to terms with just how much of her father’s two halves she has inherited that gets the focus here.

With that focus as the primary driver, it takes a gifted actor to hit the mark as Catherine and Josette Jorge is up to that task.  Playing that fine line between genius and insanity, Jorge easily moves between the two worlds that her mind has created for her, bringing us with her.

Rather than let Auburn’s words and Jorge’s talent shine though, director Raugi Yu embellishes Catherine’s swings into her world of insanity with flashing lights and whispering.  Instead of enhancing the performance though it has the same effect of a sitcom laugh track, suggesting that perhaps as an audience we need help in figuring out what is funny, or in this case, when Catherine takes a step from reality.  We don’t need that help and neither does Jorge.

Jim Preston is believable as the dead father, who appears as both a figment of Catherine’s madness and in flashbacks.  Minh Ly brings a surprising vulnerability to his role of Hal, the young mathematician who adores both the dead father and Catherine, but he struggles, as does Andrea Yu as sister Claire, in effectively containing their performances.

Set designer Shuzuka Kai gives a stunning deconstructed front porch of the family’s Chicago home, but much like the addition of the flashing lights and whispers, it too becomes overwrought and distracting with the addition of a video screen that at times offers a glimpse inside the house.  Jim Preston does double-duty as sound designer providing a wonderful sound-scape when he sticks to the transitional and incidental music.

With such a superb performance from Jorge, the unevenness in this Mnemonic Theatre production is at times pronounced, but her performance alone makes this trip to the edge of insanity worth it.

Proof

By David Auburn.  Directed by Raugi Yu.  A Mnemonic Theatre Productions presentation.  On stage at The Cultch Vancity Culture Lab through June 8, 2013.  Visit http://www.mnemonictheatre.com for tickets and information.

Mark Robins on Google+

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