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There is proof on many levels in this fine production of the Pulitzer Prize winning play

By Nancy Sasso Janis, The Patch


New Milford, CT - TheatreWorks New Milford presents 'Proof,' (stylized as {proof}) the Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Auburn. The piece was originally produced by Manhattan Theatre Club in May of 2000. This interest-holding production was directed by Frank Arcaro and is scheduled for a four week run through March 10, 2018. The play is presented with one intermission and runs a little over two hours.

'Proof' is set in the present day on the back porch of a house in Chicago and is essentially an exploration of a college-aged woman's journey of self-discovery. Catherine has spent five years caring for her father, a brilliant mathematician who suffered from devastating mental deterioration during those years. Now she wonders whether she is now coming into his heartbreaking legacy that is equal parts genius and instability.

"Despite the play [being firmly rooted] in universal themes, Catherine can be seen today as a figure in an ongoing conversation about gender inequality in the fields of math and science. With a decidedly light hand, 'Proof' considers the subtle ways in which women's capabilities in those fields often face unwarranted skepticism." - Director Frank Arcaro

While I would concede this point made by the director, I chose to focus on the more universal themes of the loss of one's mental faculties, the reality of inheriting mental illness and family dynamics in general. I had the honor of attending the free senior citizen dress rehearsal, which incidentally ended in a standing ovation. I overheard the senior citizens seated near me discussing the appropriateness of the deteriorating gentleman remaining in his home versus an institution.

Upon the death of Catherine's father, his ex-graduate student Hal discovers a paradigm-shifting mathematical proof about prime numbers in the professor's office. Therefore, the title refers both to that proof and to the play's central question: Can Catherine prove the proof's authorship? The director integrates well the flashbacks to the life of the math professor, where Viv Berger gets to shine in the role of the brilliant man that we watch as his faculties deteriorate.

Anna Fagan of Stamford tackles the meaty role of the twenty-something Catherine. She did not shy away from the challenging parts of the young woman's complicated reaction to her father's death and the resulting trajectory of her life. One of the senior citizens had some difficulty with her louder lines, but such was the intensity of her performance. Ms. Fagan appeared in the 2016 production of 'Private Lives' on this stage and I remembered her as Maggie in 'Cat in a Hot Tin Roof' at Brookfield Theatre for the Arts. Kudos to this talented young actor on another memorable performance.

I know Carey Van Hollen of Southbury as a wonderful singing and dancing actress, but here she presented "proof" of her acting chops. She brought a keen insight to the role of the older sister who moved to New York City but continued to support her father and sister. Daniel Basiletti of Brewster NY was most likable in the role of the slightly geeky grad student Hal; the audience could see why Catherine would see past his university persona. Mr. Berger of Middlebury (Napoleon in TheatreWork's 'Animal Farm in 2017) related well to his onstage daughter.

The set for 'Proof' was up to the usual standards of this venue. The back porch was used well throughout the acts and the large blackboard filled with mathematical symbols, complete with erasures, reminded us of why we were there. Mr. Arcaro both directed and designed the production and Jenny Andress was the scenic painter. The lighting designed by Leif Smith added just the right amount of accents and the original music and sound design by John Gromada contributed the perfect amount of musical elements.

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