Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Proo(ƒ) reviewed

Photos by Jason Ganwich

Proo(ƒ) at Dukesbay
reviewed by Alec Clayton
Chevi Chung as Catherine and Amy Van Michelen as Claire
David Auburn’s drama Proof won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play. Dukesbay Productions’ treatment is proof positive that this play deserves all the awards it has earned, and after almost 20 years it is not at all dated.
Director and Dukesbay co-founder Randy Clark wrote what is probably the most succinct director’s note ever published in a playbill. He wrote, “Proof is one of my favorite plays. I think it is perfect. Fortunately, I have a talented ensemble to bring this gem to life. I hope you enjoy it.”
I should not have to say any more than that, plus listing the names of the cast members, to entice theater lovers from around Western Washington to flock to the little Dukesbay Theater. But I can’t resist the urge to say more.
Chevi Chung and Nick Fitzgerald as Hall

Chevi Chung and Erik Hill as Robert
Proof is intense, sad, angry and surprisingly funny. You will love and definitely root for its protagonist, Catherine (Chevi Chung), feel loads of admiration and empathy for her father, Robert (Erik Hill) and his student and her friend Hal (Nick Fitzgerald), and I’m afraid you might want to strangle Catherine’s sister Claire (Amy Van Mechelen), the epitome of a meddling, manipulative do-gooder family member. And you will be emotionally swept into the net of their tangled lives as you sit mere feet away from the actors in the tiny space of Dukesbay Theater.
Auburn’s script is a masterpiece of structure and insight, complex, multi-layered and easy to follow, and the acting by the entire cast is superb.
It opens the day of Robert’s funeral. He and Catherine are sharing a bottle of champagne. Whether it is her hallucination, a memory or a fantasy doesn’t matter. It establishes the complex relationship between father and daughter. He was a mathematical genius who suffered from mental illness and was unable to function during the final years of his life while Catherine was his sole caretaker. Catherine has inherited his math genius and, she is afraid, his mental illness.
Enter Hal, one of Robert’s former graduate students who has been given Catherine’s permission to examine the hundreds of notebooks Robert has left behind.
Catherine’s sister Claire flies in from New York and tries to take over Catherine’s life, and wants to take her home to New York with her and has made plans to have her examined for mental illness.
The relationships between these four characters are explosive. There are tears and laughter and incriminations, and the “F-word” is tossed about liberally.
Each of the cast members brings extensive experience to the stage, and together they are incredible. Chung is an accomplished actor, director and fight consultant. She was Assistant Director, dramaturg and fight choreographer for Dukesbay’s recent production of Agnes of God. Hill is a member of SAG/AFTRA and has appear in film and television. He was seen in Lakewood Playhouse’s recent two-part Angels in America. Fitzgerald is a recent Theater Arts graduate from Washington State University and has appeared in such shows as Twelfth Night, Newsies and The Glass Menagerie. Van Mechelen played Hiromi in Dukesbay’s Calligraphy and is an opera singer who has performed as a soloist in Seattle Opera’s Porgy and Bess. Clark called this foursome a “talented ensemble,” which is an understatement if there ever was one.
Performances are selling out quickly. Buying tickets quickly and online is recommended.

7:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 17
Dukesbay Theater, 508 6th Ave., Tacoma, above the Grand Cinema
(253) 350-7680, https://dukesbay.org/

Admission includes your choice of coffee, tea and an assortment of cookies.

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