The play ‘Proof’ was originally written by David Auburn, a Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner, and performed by an all-star cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Coyle, Ronald Pickup and Sara Stewart.
East West Players and director Heidi Helen Davis present ‘Proof’ with an all-American-Pacific-American cast.
In transitioning the story to an Asian-Pacific-American cast, I wondered if there would be an ‘Asian spin’ on the production.
Instead, I was fortunate enough to have assumptions about an all minority cast debunked. The actor’s performances are thoroughly absorbing.
‘Proof’ is the story of a retired professor (Dom Magwili) and his daughter (Kimiko Gelman) living in a suburb near the prestigious University of Chicago. Unfortunately, the professor suffers from a dementia that prevents him from continuing the outstanding advances in mathematics of his earlier career.
As a result of his mental incapacities, his daughter Catherine is forced to forgo school and work to take care of her ailing father, Robert.
The plays begins on Catherine’s birthday, as she and her father share a bottle of champagne and have a conversation about school, work, relationships and all the small things parents often pester their children about. That is, until she remembered her father is dead.
Catherine, alienated from her sister Claire (Joanne Takahashi) and the attractive grad student Hal (David J. Lee) working on the remainder of her father’s work, begins to fear that her own mind suffers from the problems that plagued her father.
And in the midst of it all, Hal makes an amazing discovery in the gibberish writings of the late professor, a ‘Proof’ that will change the face of mathematics.
And thus begins the second act.
‘Proof’ takes places on one set with a total of four actors. This simplistic setup requires that the entire performance be carried on the shoulders of the actors.
Furthermore, the East West Players have to overcome the audience’s assumptions about an all-Asian cast.
But ultimately they are absolutely successful. The cast carries the story to the intermission, but the unexpected twists and the explosive performances of the second act bring ‘Proof’ alive, surpassing all assumptions.
Catherine’s progress through the play with her monologue and conflict with her sister that begs the question, which side of sanity will she fall?
Dom Magwili gives a convincing portrayal of a man broken by his own brilliance. ‘Proof’ makes us all wonder if insanity is the price of genius.
David Lee and Joanne Takahashi as Hal and Claire give memorable performances that drive the question of Catherine’s sanity.
The East West Players will be celebrating their 40th anniversary this year