Losing a loved one can stir many emotions - fear, anger, sadness, nostalgia, uncertainty, regret, even relief. All of these are woven into a drama, "Proof," by David Auburn.
The Ritz Players are to present the production at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and May 17 with a 2 p.m. performance May 18, all in The National Theatre at The Ritz. The content and language in the show are intended for mature audiences.
The small cast carries a heavy burden as they tell the story of Catherine, portrayed by Mandy Wolber. She is to turn 25 on the same day she is burying her widowed father, Robert, played by Michael Schoepper.
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
From left, Michele Caseman as Claire examines a notebook with skepticism while Lukas Frey and Mandy Wolber, as Hal and Catherine, observe in a scene from “Proof.”
The story unfolds on the enclosed porch of the family home near the University of Chicago, where Robert has spent much of his life teaching mathematics.
Exhausted, Catherine has camped out on the wicker couch while a former student of Robert's reviews some of his mentor's notebooks in hopes of uncovering some important, unpublished projects. Half-asleep, Catherine is roused by the figure of her deceased father, checking in on her. He had been ill during his final days. With his sanity restored, he urges her not to waste time getting back to her research and building on what he has taught her.
Their encounter is interrupted as Hal comes out of the house with his backpack. Lukas Frey is cast as the young mathematician who has been inspired by Robert's instruction and accomplishments.
Hal believes Robert's 103 notebooks hold untapped wisdom, while Catherine calls them "gibberish." At the same time, she is outraged when one of the notebooks falls out of Hal's coat. He tries to soothe her by reading a page he discovered, expressing Robert's gratitude for her care.
Hal asks to come back for further study because she probably wouldn't know enough to recognize anything of importance. Catherine is too stressed out to counter his unintentional insult. More turmoil is in store for Catherine with the arrival of her controlling sister, Claire, played by Michele Castleman. Not only has she brought breakfast, but also a dress for Catherine to wear to the funeral. Claire also announces she has ordered food for a gathering at the house after the funeral.
While everyone is drinking at the reception, Hal and Catherine talk on the porch to recall memories of Robert. Their reminiscence turns to romance.
After spending the night together, Hal and Catherine are not sure of the next step, but it turns out Claire has made plans for Catherine's future. The domineering sister has arranged to sell the house and bring Catherine to New York with her in an effort to make up for the years she offered little help to Catherine and her father.
The sisters have a heated argument in which Catherine surmises she will end up in a mental facility in the city. In addition to inheriting her father's genius, she fears she also has inherited his disability.
A mysterious notebook deepens her concerns and throws her into severe depression.
The remainder of the play includes flashbacks to the day Catherine first met Hal and to a time when Robert was in a manic relapse.
aThe double meaning of the play's title also is revealed.
With everyone doubting her, Catherine begins to doubt herself. Being taken care of by Claire is starting to sound good to her. The ending is uncertain but hopeful as Hal encourages Catherine to pursue her own work and decide what's best for herself.
Director Brad Rowe of Bellevue said he had seen the movie version of "Proof" and was drawn to directing the stage version after seeing it in Huron. He chose a solid cast from Bucyrus, Findlay, Upper Sandusky and Tiffin for The Ritz production.
Scott Edmondson designed a sparse but adequate set to focus the action on the characters and the issues they faced, including the sacrifices of caregivers and the double loss of a loved one who remains alive but transformed by mental illness before his physical death.
Nancy Steyer serves as assistant director. The crew includes Erin Sallee, Dina Adams, Sandy Kimmel, Nathan Morton and Dominique Herrera.
After Friday's production, the public is invited to a meet-and-greet with the cast and crew at Phat Cakes, across from The Ritz on South Washington Street.
Tickets are $11 for adults and $7 for students. For reservations and information, visit www.ritztheatre.
org or call (419) 448-8544.