Theatre Knoxville Downtown's production of David Auburn's "Proof" opened to audiences Jan. 10.
This 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play tells the story of Claire, played by Rebecca Gomez, the daughter of a brilliant but mentally unstable mathematician. The play opens a week after his death and shows the struggles his daughter Claire has as she deals with family issues and the possibility that she inherited not only his intelligence, but also his instabilities.
The play centers around the discovery of a mathematical proof and the question of its authorship. Claire claims she wrote it, but her sister Catherine, played by Danielle Pressley, and her father's former student Hal, played by James Perry Speir, Jr., do not believe she is capable of such mathematical genius and think she may be going insane like her father.
The play deals with the issues of gender roles and expectations of feminine abilities. Although the play is titled "Proof", there is also a major theme of doubt, as Claire begins to question everything she knows and those around her begin to question her.
Theatre Knoxville Downtown's production is excellent in that it not only displays these themes clearly, but it adds a reality to the play that captivates and holds the audience's attention throughout the production.
Though at the beginning some of the lines and acting seemed a bit forced, by the second scene the cast had found its rhythm and were able to flow effortlessly from scene to scene, depicting the heart-wrenching pain and confusion, as well as excitement, felt by the characters. Each actor embodied their character very well and gave a believable and captivating performance throughout the show.
This play was also made successful in part thanks to Theatre Knoxville Downtown's relatively intimate venue. Although it is small, this only serves to create a closer bond between the characters and the audience as they are allowed to step into the world of the play and see the character's private lives.
The set itself was small, but detailed. All of the action in the play occurs on the back porch of Claire's home, and the set consisted mainly of a table with three chairs and a porch seat in front of the façade of a run-down house. Scene changes were denoted through blackouts and slight prop changes instead of using different sets.
The lighting was the only part of this play that posed a problem. There was a very strong blue spotlight on one part of the stage. Though this served its purpose, such as when a character stepped aside to reminisce, at other times it was just a distraction to see a cast member turn vividly blue for no significant reason. The rest of the lighting was dim, which helped add to the dreary look of the set, but there was no significant change in light to indicate a different time of day for each scene.
The lighting aside, Theatre Knoxville Downtown's production of "Proof" was wonderfully done. It was a very powerful, moving and thought-provoking performance that is definitely worth going to see.
The production will run until Jan. 26, and tickets are available online for $10 or $15, depending on the day of the performance.