“Proof,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning, two-act play written by former Little Rock resident David Auburn and the Weekend Theater’s current production, seems to take up where the film “A Beautiful Mind” left off — two very similar stories involving the balance between brilliance’s predilection for insanity and a sense of common humanity. In “Proof,” a family of mathematicians struggles with the instability of life and relationships, where TWT director John Haman himself puts it, “Even in an empirical world … human relationships can only be based on trust.”
The language in “Proof” is even-paced, natural and, while dramatically overdrawn at times, provides would-be actors with excellent material that is exact enough to tell a compelling story, yet plenty loose enough to allow the actors to make it their own. The Weekend Theater’s version of Auburn’s stellar work gives us a bust-out performance by first-timer Paige Reynolds among the four starring actors.
Lyndsay McIntyre makes her TWT debut as the lead character, Catherine, a second-generation genius to her math virtuoso father. In the company of other more polished actors, McIntyre only takes the “participation” award for her efforts, however. Although the character called for the actress to play the angst-filled depressive, her lack of expression gave the audience little to hold on to. It seemed as if the cardinal rule was forgotten: In drama, your whole body tells the story.
Alan Douglas, as Catherine’s father, Robert, seemed to make up for it — embarrassingly so. His hands flailed through the air too often and his vocal performance was excruciatingly exaggerated. Douglas’ delivery would be surprisingly cute at times, though, and he was able to pick up the acting slack where needed.
Jeremy Estill did an exceptional job as Robert’s quirky protege, Hal, whose awkward personality seasons the show with laughs and becomes the catalyst for many of the story’s dilemmas. Sometimes his jerky body movements gave his performance away but were forgivable in light of his ability to fill out the role with his own contributions.
So Estill wins the silver medal for the show’s acting, but the gold belongs to Reynolds, playing Catherine’s older sister, whose condescending success and overbearing concern challenge the integrity of a life of instable brilliance. Reynolds crafts every line, even the most unnatural dialogue, into very believable conversation. Her reaction time was flawless, her command of the script clean, and never once was it possible to separate the actor from the character. Seeing as this was her first TWT performance, let us hope she returns for more.
All in all, despite the tunnel-vision-inducing theater space of the Weekend Theater, which feels more like a hallway than a theater hall, the performance was an impressive combination of real and raw talent that keeps local theater alive. “Proof” continues on Fridays and Saturdays through March 5. Call 374-3761 for tickets.
— By Dustin Allen