Tickets are $20 adults, $15 students. For more information or tickets, call the CRT box office at 386-585-9415 or easily book tickets online here.
For any math-phobe who struggled with the mysteries of 10th-grade geometry, have no fear that City Repertory Theatre’s latest production revolves around a proof – a theoretical mathematical equation.
“There’s maybe three paragraphs in there in which somebody actually talks about math that might be complicated,” says John Pope, who portrays Robert in “Proof,” the David Auburn work that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
The drama tells the story of Catherine, whose father – a brilliant mathematician – has died following a lengthy mental illness. When one of her father’s former students discovers a groundbreaking mathematical proof among his papers, Catherine seeks to . . . well, prove the authenticity of the mysterious proof, even as she ponders whether she has inherited her father’s mathematical genius the way she did his humor – and a proclivity to mental illness herself.
“Somebody who has a math background might understand some of the terms,” says Pope, a City Rep veteran who portrays the father in flashback scenes deftly weaved through the drama. “But most of it is about the relationship, the bantering between father and daughter, and the romantic interest that comes in.”
“Yes, it refers to a mathematical proof, but it’s also a metaphor for other things,” says Sharon Resnikoff, who portrays Catherine, and who played Lady Macbeth in City Rep’s “Macbeth” last season. “It’s a fly-on-the-wall look into what millions are dealing with when a loved one becomes ill, whether it’s a mental illness, cancer or dementia — the conflicts that arise between family members and siblings, and the decisions that people have to make: putting them into a facility versus home care, and the burden that’s placed on some siblings who become the caretaker versus other siblings who continue on with their lives.”
The play also stars Sue Pope, John’s wife and another City Rep veteran, as Catherine’s older sister, Claire. She’s the sister who, Sue Pope says, “escaped the family dynamics and moved away” and who “will solve the problem by throwing money at it.”
Damon Dennin is making his City Rep debut as Hal, the one-time grad student of Catherine’s father and the one who discovers the mysterious proof in his papers – and who becomes Catherine’s budding love interest.
Sue and John Pope saw the play on Broadway during its original run.
“I remember then saying I would love to do this show,” Sue Pope says. “It was the family dynamics. You saw the relationship between the two sisters. It’s Catherine’s world and we’re just little orbits that circle her. So the father and Claire are never on stage at the same time, but you learn about our relationship through what other people say, and the way they did it with the dead guy. It’s all about the family dynamics.”
Despite the play’s sweep of those prestigious awards, director John Sbordone notes that “many literary critics find it poorly written. I think they were looking at it as a piece of literature and not what you’re looking for as a piece of theater, because it plays extraordinarily well.
“The one fully developed character in the play is Catherine. As Sue said, the other characters are little circles around Catherine. That’s how they exist, why they exist, that’s why they were written as they are. We have an extraordinary cast here, and that makes a world of difference. You give this to lesser actors and this would be a boring thing.”
Sue Pope says the play has “the hardest lines.” That’s the result of Auburn’s gambit to capture the stop-start rhythms of people’s everyday speech as opposed to, as Sbordone notes, relying on a more “literary” style.
“He writes in circles sometimes,” Sue Pope says. “That’s the hard part. When people are in a conversation, we stop, we start. How many times do you go ‘Uh-huh,’ ‘yes,’ ‘I know’? That’s all in there.”
“The rhythm of it – it’s almost like a musical piece,” Resnikoff says. “It’s choppy and staccato. It’s like a drummer.”
“It’s very much modern music as opposed to Gershwin,” Sue Pope says. “The challenge is trying to deliver it in such a way that it does flow naturally and it does sound like normal conversation. The way it’s written, the audience is going to be drawn into it as opposed to seeing it as actors saying lines.”
“The play ultimately is a puzzle, a mystery and a family drama,” Sbordone says. “It incorporates all those things. There’s a reason it won those awards. Not necessarily for literature, but there’s a reason it won those awards.”
–Rick de Yampert for FlaglerLive
“Proof,” by David Auburn, directed by John Sbordone, at City Repertory Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9-10 and 16-17, and 2 p.m. Nov. 11 and 18. Performances are at CRT’s venue in City Market Place, 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite B207, Palm Coast. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 students. For more information or tickets, call the CRT box office at 386-585-9415 or easily book tickets online here.
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