Encore Michigan

Review: Wilde Theatre’s ‘Proof’

Review September 24, 2023 Julie Linderleaf

BRIGHTON, MI–New parents quickly learn that raising children is a huge and massive time consuming task. Keeping them fed, clothed, a roof over their heads, etc. is just the basics. Now, what if the tables are turned and the child has to take care of the parent?

The Wilde Theatre here is producing the 2001 Pulitzer prize winning play for best drama, Proof, by David Auburn tackles this scenario:  Children–specifically a daughter caring for her father–taking time from their own lives to care for their parents.

Math lover Richard Spangler directs the fourth show in A Wilde Theatre’s “power of love season”, the theatre’s fourth season.

The show takes place on the porch of Catherine’s family home in Chicago on her 25th birthday and the following days after her father Robert’s funeral. Like keeping eyes on neighbors, the audience is brought right into the center of this family ordeal.

Robert, (Bruce Michel), a long time college math professor recently died and left Catherine (Celah Convis), a house filled with countess journals massed with mathematical proofs, some of which seem like nonsense.

Some of it is nonsense because Robert suffered from a mental disorder that even Catherine worries could be genetic. 

Robert’s previous student, Hal (Joe Gaskill), is supposedly helping Catherine sort through all of the gibberish and numbers in order to see if there is anything worth publishing. 

Robert was once sharp-minded, but quickly fell into a dark place that swallowed immeasurable amounts of his time and focus. He had to quit teaching at the college. And eventually Catherine, too, had to give up her education to help her father.

Celah Convis does superbly as Catherine, doing a convincing job of playing someone on teetering on a downward spiral, and does some pretty tricky hair changes to flashback to younger times, while having to come back to the current day.

Straight-edged older sister (Inchai Reed), gives off mean vibes trying to control her younger sister and manipulate her future now that their father is gone.

The set construction, by Al Pelky, made great use of The Wilde Theatre’s small stage, and seems to have created more depth for this production.

The performance space, designed to look like a porch during late night hours was enhanced with inspired lighting design by Aspen Jendrusik.  The low blue lighting and single porch light created the sleepy late-night atmosphere that David Auburn aims for in his script.

There are just a few shows remaining if you want to see where the mathematical connections between love, sisters, and the end of life care for parents intersect in Proof.