The Proof Is in the Production
Student show conveys the intensity and complexity of life
Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 20:02
Devoid of lavish set designs and elaborate arrays of props, director Emma Rice’s (NHS ’15) “Proof” captures the audience’s attention with a very different set of visuals. With a cast of only four actors, the play relies on a deliverance of dynamic, believable emotions to breathe reality into the story. The production, run by the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society, succeeds in creating complex characters, whose imbalances and imperfections eventually become their greatest traits.
“Proof” focuses on a young woman named Catherine, whose father Robert has recently passed away. He was a genius mathematician, and his death sets loose a torrent of repressed feelings. Together with Hal, one of her father’s ex-students, Catherine is forced to confront the myriad of questions that arise while searching through Robert’s old notebooks. The play is a truly human experience, weaving together the different conflicts of intelligence, instability, family, pride and love in order to create a unified piece.
Rice emphasizes this multifaceted approach, which she believes is applicable to the Georgetown community at large.
“It’s a show about really brilliant people, but it looks at them through a holistic lens. We are seeing not only their genius but also their very raw human emotional states. At Georgetown, a lot of times people are so focused on their careers and their intellect that sometimes they undervalue their emotional and relational sides. It’s about the concept of embracing cura personalis,” Rice said.
Set on a quaint back porch near the University of Chicago and centered on mathematically-minded people, it is hard to think that the play could form characters that are so generally relatable in any lasting way. However, Rice effectively directs a play that does just that. Each character reflects a distinct personality that reacts differently to the circumstances surrounding Robert’s death, yet they are inextricably linked by professional and personal relationships. Their struggles are reminiscent of the emotional issues that many Georgetown students find themselves in, and they serve as a window into one’s own life. The Georgetown idea of caring for the whole person is powerfully echoed through the four characters’ experiences. These emotionally taxing personalities are both challenging and rewarding to the actors, who have become especially linked to their own roles.
“Catherine is very much a part of me,” said Katie Bellamy Mitchell (COL ’15). “This is the uncertain, terrified, frustrated freshman that I was, who didn’t know what she was doing. Here I get to become this incredibly strong woman.”
Although the weight of her part seemed like a burden to her at times, Mitchell saw the benefits of taking on such a complex character.
“You know when things are falling apart around you, and it was kind of hard dealing with that while working on this play. But it was an incredibly rewarding experience getting to live all of those moments and to pull them apart,” Mitchell said.
Sean Craig (COL ’16) plays Hal, and he strongly believes in the play’s message about the overlapping human struggles that make us who we are.
“I think ‘Proof’ really strikes a chord. It’s about that fine line between intellect and emotion,” he reflected.
“A lot of Georgetown students can be caught up in the work, the academics, the job and the money, never really pulling back enough to slow down and see what really makes us special, and what makes us human. That’s one of the main questions that this play really asks, and it’s one that all of us should ask every day here,” Craig said.
With a gifted cast and a poignant message, “Proof” is a play that extends beyond the stage to touch upon the real issues facing an academically gifted, yet entirely human, community.
“So much of the play’s strength comes from how real these people feel. At times it’s not a play, it’s just four people interacting,” Craig said. “It makes you constantly aware of what’s really important at the end of the day.”
Stripped of virtually all props, this production lays bare the tangled emotions that we constantly struggle to come to terms with. Its depth of character and witty dialogue creates a relatable story of growth, and the audience emerges with a greater appreciation for the oftentimes flawed nature of themselves and of the people around them. “Proof” may pull back the curtain on the unbalanced culture that pervades society today, but it is the underlying message of cura personalis that remarkably steals the show.