Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 7, 2011


Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
By Stacie Beland and M. Axelson
through February 13, 2010

In its first play of the New Year, The Majestic is offering David Auburn's "Proof."  The plot centers on Catherine, the daughter of a brilliant mathematician (Robert) who, up until his recent death, had been suffering from an unnamed mental illness. Having given up everything to take care of him, Catherine is standing on the precipice of having her own life, a thought that paralyzes her. The audience learns that Robert had one year of lucid thought, during which he took on a doctoral student named Hal. Hal, wanting to bridge a connection to Catherine, makes several awkward attempts to court her. In town for the funeral is Catherine's sister Claire, who has also sacrificed much in order to financially support her family. Hal offers Catherine opportunities for normalcy; Claire offers Catherine opportunities for resignation to madness. Catherine is understandably hesitant to take either path.

This is a fine show, with a richly designed set and a beautiful lighting design. Keith Langsdale, portraying Robert (his character appears in imagined conversations and flashbacks), leads the cast in his portrayal of a range of emotions, heartbreakingly oscillating between madness and lucidity. Lea Oppedisano is brilliant as the tightly-wound Claire, searching for connections and the ability to maintain control. Dustin Sleight is quite effective as the touchingly awkward Hal.

The bulk of the emotions in this show are carried by the character of Catherine, played by Amy Prothro. As Catherine pushes and pulls on her world in an effort to find stability, Prothro does slip into histrionics, slightly losing control over her character. Auburn's words stand on their own, and at times Prothro's portrayal can seem like she is over-reaching to milk emotions, causing the character to be more theatrical than real. There were some timing issues that contributed to this problem, so the fault cannot rest squarely on her shoulders. To be sure, Prothro is dedicated to the character of Catherine, and it shows.

Despite a few issues, the Majestic's "Proof" is a heartbreaking and moving production. The issues of timing and character development will settle as the run continues.  It is a show not to be missed.