Math and madness take stage

Hal (Justin Kelly) and Catherine (Joanne Nosuchinsky) share an on-stage kiss, although matters of trust complicate their relationship. Proof questions whether Catherine inherited her father’s insanity as well as his math genius.By Laura Mortkowitz

The biggest challenge of Proof for freshman Justin Kelly was getting the math right.

Wait. Back up. Math?

Kelly’s character, Hal, is a talented mathematician, like the majority of the characters in the four-person ensemble.
“I’m terrible at math,” he said. “Like nonlinear operatory theory. I don’t know what that means. Just having to know and convince myself that I know what I’m talking about is probably one of the hardest aspects.”

Despite the math frame, the David Auburn play focuses on the struggles of a family as its father becomes ill. The renowned mathematician, Robert (senior Kevin Feehery), slips into madness while his daughter is left to take care of him.

“The other question that is raised in the play is whether or not the math professor’s daughter, Catherine, has inherited his gene for insanity,” said director Dr. Patrick Chmel, chairperson of Fine Arts.

Sophomore Joanne Nosuchinsky plays Catherine, who is seen in both the present, after her father’s death, and four years in the past.

“It’s only a four-year difference, but it is different in the sense that she has gone through so much more than would be expected of a girl in four years,” she said. “She has had to take on a very difficult role and those are years of basically being mother to her father, and all of that has aged her emotionally and mentally.”

Nosuchinsky’s character thinks very differently during these separate times and it was difficult to figure out what “makes her tick and what makes her Catherine,” she said.

Things in the play become more complicated when a mathematical proof is discovered and no one can figure out who wrote it: the daughter or the father.

Robert’s protégé, Hal, has a crisis when trying to decide whether he believes Catherine’s unlikely claim that she wrote the proof, or the logical conjecture that it was Robert’s final work. While Kelly is more of a goofy character in the first half of the play, things take a turn.

Each character is going to have his or her difficult moments, whether it’s Catherine’s sister, Claire (senior Michele Danna), worried about Catherine’s mental health, or Hal’s trouble believing. There are parts for everyone, from the funny moments to the serious moments, Kelly said.

With only one set, the actors all grew very familiar with it. Since there are only four characters, they were all able to make good connections, Nosuchinsky added.

“Every character is principle, every character is major,” Chmel said. “Every actor has to come to grips with the complicated emotional levels of the character and that’s been difficult and challenging, but I think that these four actors are performing the characters wonderfully.”

For the mathematically challenged, there is no need to fear. During the two-hour play, only about five minutes are actually spent discussing math, Chmel said.

The play is really about the family crisis and the audience won’t need “any math background at all to appreciate the play,” he added.

“I just hope that [the audience] can relate to the characters in some way,” Nosuchinsky said. “Yeah, it’s a play that deals with math, but that’s not the main issue in this play. It’s really about the relationships between the characters, dealing with death, trying to prove yourself, and I think that anyone who sees this play will have some remembrance of that in their own life.”

Proof will be performed tonight and tomorrow night, as well as Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday 23. All shows will take place at 8 p.m. in the Yvonne Theater. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for the general public.

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