"Proof" Proves that Theatre Memphis Has Still Got It

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  • Proof of life at Theatre Memphis
The 2013-14 theater season has kicked off with memorable interpretations of Les Miserables at Playhouse on the Square, and Red, just across Cooper St. at the Circuit Playhouse. Not to be outdone, Theatre Memphis has followed its uneven and not very funny production of the 20's era comedy The Royal Family, with an understated, thoroughly engrossing production of David Auburn’s 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner, Proof.

Set in Chicago, Proof aims to measure the distance between genius and insanity while telling the story of Catherine (Jillian Barron), the daughter of a brilliant, recently deceased mathematician, who must prove that an important mathematical breakthrough originated with her, not with her mentally-ill father.

The relationships in Proof are emotionally raw, and excruciatingly real. Before she says a word you can read the fatigue and depression in Barron’s posture, as she putters around the backyard of her family home. As Claire, her parachute sibling whose support over the years has been primarily financial, Taylor Wood drops in from New York like the last great superpower. She's well-intentioned but clumsy and willing to do whatever it takes to fix problems that may or may not exist, in a landscape she barely understands.

Stephen Garrett’s comic sensibilities serve him well as a younger mathematician attempting to begin a relationship with Catherine, while sifting through her father’s papers. He charms through the smarm, enduring this Kate’s onslaughts like a modern day Petruchio.

I’ve seen Sam Weakley do more detailed character work in shows like All My Sons and August: Osage County. But he’s never been any more effective than he is as the too-real memory of a loving parent, broken by forces beyond his control.

Richly textured and inventive lighting is icing on the cake.

Proof is at Theatre Memphis through September 22

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