I'm sitting here struggling to find enough accolades for the inaugural production of the Charlie and Marie Skelton Cabaret Theatre, the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award and Drama Desk Award winning drama Proof, playing weekends through Sunday at Richey Suncoast Theatre in New Port Richey.
The Skelton Cabaret's new venue on Main Street will host future productions.
Playwright David Auburn's magnificent script. Professional director-actor Staci Sabarsky's perfect casting and coaching. Superb acting so genuine that audience members almost feel like voyeurs listening in on a family's private patio conversations. Evocative background music that sets the mood. Matt Beil's unobtrusive lighting. This production has it all, and then some.
Award-winning actor Marie-Claude Tremblay nails it as Catherine, the thwarted genius daughter of math superstar Robert (played brilliantly by Dennis Duggan). Catherine has sacrificed her academic ambitions to stay home and care for Robert as he descends from blazing intelligence to blubbering mental decay.
These two have acting and directing resumes miles long, and it shows. Even though the audience is seated mere feet from them in chairs on the stage to simulate a true black-box arrangement, these players are completely into their own world in a slowly deteriorating house on the University of Chicago campus, seemingly oblivious to those of us almost nose to nose with them.
Their acting resumes may be shorter, but Kaela Koch as older sister Claire, who went away to New York to career success and romance, and Adam Sieber as a young math professor and former pupil to Robert are right in step with their more experienced fellow players. More kudos to director Sabarsky for bringing everyone up to such proficiency. Koch is as impressive as she was in previous roles as the troubled Cherie in Bus Stop and scatterbrained Corie in Barefoot in the Park. This is Sieber's first major role, and he does it like someone with years of experience — confident, prepared, fearless and completely at ease. These two young actors bode well for the future of live theater.
Proof is serious drama, full of the f-word and other epithets and swearing. Those, and its adult themes, make it suitable for grownups or perhaps age 13 or older.
The plot revolves around more than 100 notebooks left behind when Robert dies. Are the contents mere demented scribbles, or does one contain a revolutionary mathematical proof that could change the way people think about primary numbers? And who actually wrote it? And is it possible to prove who wrote the proof?
Don't be concerned that the play is full of arcane math talk. Auburn lets us know these characters know what they are talking about and can talk about it as easily as the less math-gifted talk about, say, Young Frankenstein. Indeed, he inserts that "insider math" talk so smoothly that those in the audience don't feel left out, but, instead, are properly impressed at the characters' knowledge.
The Skelton Cabaret production is one not to be missed by anyone who loves good, serious drama expertly delivered by gifted actors directed by one of the best.