Playcracters' 'Proof' succeeds in simplicity

2013-09-19T04:30:00Z 2013-09-19T14:03:08Z Playcracters' 'Proof' succeeds in simplicityDavid Burke The Quad-City Times

In what could have turned into a scenery-chewing role, Stephanie Moeller shows understated grace as Catherine in Playcrafters Barn Theatre's "Proof."

Catherine, a 25-year-old who may have inherited her recently deceased father's exemplary genius in mathematics — as well as his mental illness — is nicely underplayed by Moeller, who shows glimpses of her own confidence and doubt in both facets.

Moeller nicely voices the anger, frustration and helplessness of the character without giving a showy performance.

Catherine's father Robert, played by Mark Leo McGinn, takes on many of those understated characteristics himself, but it might have served him better to change the tone of his character a few times. We first see Robert as a vision in his daughter's mind and then in flashback scenes. There's a bit of mischief in the first scene and we do get to see him suffer a partial breakdown later in the drama, but at times it seems like he is on the same note.

Bryan Lopez makes a more cordial counterpart as Hal, a protege of Robert's and a love interest for Catherine. His performance is more earnest and natural, both when making fun of his math geekiness and becoming a sincere suitor.

Alexa Florence hits many of the right notes as Catherine's elder sister Claire, who swoops into Chicago from New York to handle damage control and tries to convince a beaten-down Catherine to return to New York with her.

There felt like some incongruity in the years separating the three family members, which was off-putting at times.

In his first time directing after technical work in dozens of shows at theaters in the Quad-City area, Steve Parmley keeps everything running simply and straight-forward. There were times when the pacing could have improved a tick, but Parmley and the cast kept to the basics and it worked.

Parmley also designed the stage, an oversized deck on the back of a house where all of the scenes take place.

The people at Playcrafters deserve quite a bit of credit for putting "Proof," a 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winner for playwright David Auburn, on the theater's schedule. (For the record, New Ground Theatre did the area premiere in 2002.)

Amid the usual menu of large-cast whodunits, farcical comedies, heartwarming fare and the occasional classic or two, it's nice to see a community theater stalwart like Playcrafters take on a modern play about mental illness and its effect on a family.

It may not leave you with a warm fuzzy when you exit the theater, but it will make you think about modern life and problems.

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