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By Robert Delaney
Anyone who thinks sorting out the legacy of a brilliant mathematician an unlikely subject for an exciting drama has simply never seen David Auburn's Proof, the current production at the Tipping Point Theatre in Northville.
And even if you've seen another production somewhere, I'll wager it wasn't any better than what director Suzi Regan has given us with the help of four superb local actors.
For most theatergoers, Proof gives an unusual glimpse into the arcane world of academic mathematicians - not a world most will hanker to become a part of, but a fascinating world nonetheless.
Though an acclaimed genius on the faculty of the University of Chicago, the mathematician's later years were marred by mental illness and dementia. His younger daughter has sacrificed her own college years to caring for him, while his older daughter went on to both marriage and a successful career.
With the death of their father, the sisters' conflicts surface - between the one who stayed and cared for him and the other who provided financial support during those years. But there is also their father's former student - now a professor himself - who is determined to comb through hundreds of notebooks their father filled during his illness to see whether there is any trace of his former brilliance among the mostly unintelligible ravings.
Kate Peckham gives a powerful performance as Catherine, the younger daughter, and Kelly Komlen is the very picture of practical efficiency as Claire, who has flown in to Chicago for their father's funeral.
Chris Korte gives a compelling performance as Hal, the mathematician's former grad student, whose motivations are a mixture of admiration for an old teacher and the fame he could achieve as discoverer of any significant mathematical proofs among the professor's voluminous notebooks. And another element enters into the picture, through his interaction with Catherine.
Hugh Maguire is very much the tweedy academic as Robert, the mathematician, whom we encounter both in flashback and as a figment of Catherine's imagination.
This is a don't-miss production of the highest professional quality, and yet another reason to be thankful for the role that Tipping Point now plays in the metro Detroit theater scene.
SHOW DETAILS: Proof
Proof continues through March 5 at the Tipping Point Theatre, 361 East Cady Street, Northville, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, plus matinees at 3 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. For ticket information, call 248-347-0003 or go to www.tippingpointtheatre.com.
Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Feb. 10, 2011
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