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Cast members from left are Jeff Goins, Bristol; Emily Fuller, Aurora; Richard West[hal, Aurora; and Emily Karnick, Crystal Lake. (Photo courtesy of Al Benson.)

“Proof” that AU puts on a Good Show

Review by Nancy Stefanski

Aurora, Ill. – Local community members gathered in the cozy setting of Perry Theatre at Aurora University on Saturday, April 14 to watch the presentation of “Proof.”

Two cheers!  One for the extraordinary set, and two, for the performance of Emily Fuller as Catherine.

The setting of the play was a modest residence in Chicago, 2011, where a young, gifted mathematician struggles to find her own identity after spending years living in her father’s shadow; caring for him, fearfully witnessing his descent from a brilliant, famous mathematician into stages of increasing insanity.

The audience was settled into the first scene by some early Jazz, which developed into more sultry versions of the same as a romantic relationship develops between the young mathematician, Catherine, and Hal, a past student of her father’s who was spending time at the house examining the stash of notebooks left behind by the renowned mathematician.

The fixed set of the production, the back yard of the Chicago residence, was an impressive bit of low-budget magic, all the way down to the grass stained, lower lattice at the base of the porch, worn from years of lawncare.  “It’s a matter of inventiveness,” said John Curran Jr., about his scenic and lighting design for “Proof.”

Curran believes that financial restraints do not have to affect the quality of education in theatre.  “We’re going to do things as close to what you’d find out there in the real world as possible,” he explained about his teaching method compared to Broadway.

Emily Fuller rounded out the exceptional experience of this college play with her captivating performance as Catherine, the less socialized daughter.   Opposite her was the developing performance of Emily Karnick as Claire; her intruding, culturally upscale sister who flies in from New York for their father’s funeral.

Richard Westphal delivered a solid performance for the cast to anchor to, as Robert, the fading father-figure.   Jeff Goins, as Hal, nails the romantic lead as he skillfully swoops in for that first kiss to draw Catherine out of her shell, calming his heel-rocking, over-courteous delivery for a time.

The production was adapted to this small stage at Aurora University, spatially and situationally.   Even the losing reputation of the Chicago Cubs was enlisted for one of many instances of  humor to engage the audience.

“Emily Fuller was great.  So was Richard,” said Dr. Mark Plummer, Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences.  Plummer explained how the company produces two plays a year, and that the casting for “Proof” began in January.  “It’s great to see so many people here, and It’s wonderful to see the theatre department doing so well,”  he said.

“If it were a film, it would be like a film noir,” said audience member Roseanne Dwyer .  “It was heavy and dramatic, but it was also funny.  It stays with you,” she concluded.