Currently in their first season, Windsor’s Bloomsbury House Stage Productions selected marvelous actors for their second production, David Auburn’s multi award winning play Proof. Main characters of Catherine, played by Samantha Lillian, and her recently deceased father Robert, played by Bob Steele, captivate the audience with their chemistry as they deeply immerse themselves into their roles. Equally brilliant, Shayla Hudson as Claire, Catharine’s sister, and Dalton Mugridge as Harold (Hal) add to the wide range of emotions and dynamic relationships the play brings to the stage.
Set on the back porch of the main character’s family home in Chicago, the play starts off with Catherine sorrowfully celebrating her 25th birthday alone with a bottle of champagne shortly after her father, Robert plagued by mental illness, passed away in his early fifties or a heart attack. She imagines or perhaps hallucinates her father has joined her for the celebration. Catherine dropped out of University to care for her father as his mental health deteriorated. She has inherited Robert’s mathematical genius, he was a top mathematician and professor at the local University, but she worries quite possibly his mental illness as well.
Lillian and Steele played their father and daughter scenes magnificently, displaying the characters close intimate bond and ultimate sense of despair and frustration in flashbacks. One scene flashes back to a time Claire briefly met Hal when he was an understudy of Peter’s visiting the family home.
Later Catherine has to leave class early to check on her father who she finds on the back porch improperly dressed and cold on a winter evening while he jots down formulas in his notebook. Convinced he has come up with something brilliant, Catherine reads it only to discover the formula was nonsense, a product of his deteriorating mental health. Steele is fabulous in portraying, at first excitement about his notes, and later sadness and frustration realizing it’s meaninglessness.
Lillian wonderfully shows compassion and care in her role. Covering her father with a blanket while he’s in the cold, excitedly reading his notes then becoming saddened realizing they were absurd, and then compassionately convincing and helping him inside away from the cold.
Tension rises as Claire, who resides in New York, tries to convince Catherine to move to The Big Apple so they can be closer to each other. Claire wants Catherine to either live with her or perhaps in a mental institution that would provide her with the best care possible.
Lillian and Hudson portray the characters’ sibling rivalry and situational tension excellently. The pair have never really gotten along, and Hudson perfectly shines in bringing her character’s frustration and empathy for Catherine to the play. Lillian, in turn, is able to admirably bring her character’s frustration and resentment toward her sister to the forefront.
Hal, a former student of Robert’s and currently a professor at the University of Chicago, spends time at Catherine’s home in hopes of finding unpublished and world changing mathematical proofs in the deceased’s notebooks. Hal and Catherine develop a bit of a whirlwind of a romance. After gaining Catherine’s trust she gives Hal the key to a locked bottom desk drawer in her father’s office.
Inside the drawer Hal discovers a notebook with a paradigm-shifting mathematical proof about prime numbers that appears to be in Robert’s handwriting. The genius behind the proof comes into question when Catherine claims she wrote it. Initially Hal and Claire disbelieve Catherine, causing much controversy. This sends Catherine into a near nervous breakdown and outburst of anger, frustration and feelings of betrayal.
Mugridge does a wonderful job with his character, at times, nerdy in flashback scenes as an understudy, and others almost cool, talking about being in an all mathematician rock band. Bringing charm and smiles to his character he is brilliant in both happy romantic and quarreling love scenes with Catherine.
Ultimately, it becomes clear that Catherine not only inherited her father’s madness and mathematical genius, but it comes out, she is the mind behind the proof!
“Catherine has created an incredible piece of thought, a mathematical proof,” explained Bloomsbury House’s Martin Ouellette. “The play highlights the space between creating it and showing it to the world. Some people never get past that space.” He says this season’s productions were chosen partly based on a theme of math and science. Moreover, “ this season’s main theme is more about liminal spaces, the space between things.” A nice fit for their production of Proof as Catherine’s formula goes from locked in a drawer to being revealed to the world. Ouellette added, “I don’t think this play has been produced in Windsor. The University uses scenes from it quite often with their actors but they’ve never produced it, and it’s a great play that won the Tony Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and Drama Desk all in the same year. It was made into a Hollywood movie in which Gwyneth Paltrow won Best Actress.”
Ouellette built and designed the set. Nicole Clark added character and charm to the set in her role as the art designer and decorator. “My dad was renovating our back porch and we used the old deck material to build this set,” explained Clark. “We used styrofoam for the bricks. We used some fresh greens to make it look overgrown. Every element on the set is made from recycled materials.”
All four actors, exuding fabulous chemistry with one another, were outstanding, moreso for their ability to masterfully take on their roles, portray a wide variety of emotions, and captivating the audience in an intimate immersive theatre experience. Producer Alexandra Histroff was pleased with casting for the play and says, “preparing for the show was good, the cast is really good and we have a great tech team and it all came together.”
The play was directed by Carly Morrison-Hart.
Proof, part of Bloomsbury House’s inaugural and liminal spaces themed season, is their second production. Ouellete pointed out that their first show, Marjorie Prime, “was about the space between between humanism and transhumanism / artificial intelligence. Our next show, Red, about painter Mark Rothko is about the transition between abstract expressionism and post modernism.”
Bloomsbury will produce the 2010 Tony Award Winner for Best Play, Red by John Logan, staring Joey Ouellette and Jeremy Burke at Sho Studios’ Roth Theatre on November 28, 29, 30, December 5, 6, and 7. “The play will feature live painting and is a very exciting and funny show,” says Ouellette. In January they will bring Agatha Christie’s masterful midwinter murder romp, The Mousetrap, to the stage with several more scheduled for 2020. For more information about Bloomsbury House Stage Productions, future productions, workshops, or to purchase tickets please visit https://bloomsburyhouse.wordpress.com