DANVILLE — Red Mask Players’ “Proof” will have those in the audience examining their lives — and their mental stability — by the end of the performance.
The play will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and April 7 and 8, and at 2 p.m. April 2 and 9 at the Kathryn Randolph Theater, 601 N. Vermilion St.
“It’s a psychological drama,” director Amanda Coutant said. “A lot in the show (looks at) how you touch other people’s lives and how they touched yours.”
The drama by David Auburn revolves around Catherine, a troubled young woman who has spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable father, a famous mathematician. Now, following his death, she must deal with her own volatile emotions; the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire; and the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father's who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks that her father left behind.
During the long weekend that follows, a burgeoning romance and the discovery of a mysterious notebook draw Catherine into the most difficult problem of all: How much of her father's madness — or genius — will she inherit?
The cast is made up of just four people: Brittany McDaniels as Catherine; Leslie VanCamp as Claire; Andrew Peters as Robert (the father); and Chad Myler as Harold “Hal” Dobbs.
Donna Sant is producer and Amy Snyder is stage manager.
The set is minimalist, with the characters dressed in black and green (the color associated with mental-health awareness).
The audience will see Catherine progress, Coutant said, and see how the characters interact with each other.
If you’re not math-literate, don’t worry.
“It’s not all just about the math,” Coutant said. “It’s about the emotional and mental state of the characters.”
Catherine, for example, questions her own mental health, and wonders if it’s inherited from her father.
People also will be touched by the issues that the characters are going through, and possibly identify with them.
“Anyone who comes to the show will take something personal from that,” she said, referring to the father and his relationship with the daughter. “There are so many ways people can be touched.”
Audience members might think about a teacher or family member who encouraged them in some way.
The play has mature language and adult situations, and is not appropriate for children.
Coutant noted that the dialogue is very conversational, and you might find yourself thinking, “That’s something I would say.”
Andrew Peters, who portrays the father, described the play as an intense drama with moments of humor.
As a young man, the father revolutionized areas of higher mathematics, but became ill with an unspecified mental illness.
“It’s about the relationship between a mathematical genius and mental illness,” Peters said.
The title “Proof” has a double meaning: as a mathematical term to prove a proposal, and as a mystery of whether the father or the daughter wrote a passage in the math notebook.
“There’s the question of trying to prove who’s the author,” Peters said. “Hal thinks only his former mentor could have written this. He’s caught between the loyalties of who wrote the proof.”
The drama is unlike most of which Red Mask has done before, Peters said, comparing it to Darkhorse Theatre’s “August: Osage County,” which was a drama with dark humor.
As for himself, Andrews has performed in a lot of musicals and DLO shows.
“Every once in a while I enjoy doing a show like this,” he said. “There’s no song and dance to hide behind. You have to inhabit the characters and the relationship between characters.”
Peters said his character’s stage time is small, but the impact of the role is important.
Coutant said she’s directed up to 75 characters in a play down to four in this one.
“There are challenges with both, but they’re just as satisfying,” she said.
As for why people should attend “Proof,” she said: it’s great entertainment; it’s a great story with interesting characters; and a chance to take a break from worrying about your own problems.
The play “Proof” is similar to the 2005 film adaptation, with Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow, except the movie has more characters in minor roles. The play won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for drama.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors age 60 and over, and $15 for students.
Make your reservation and pick up your tickets during box office hours at the theater. Hours for “Proof” are 7-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and April 6.