Thought-Provoking Family Struggles in Backyard Renaissance’s ‘Proof’

Francis Gercke and Liliana Talwatte (photos courtesy of Daren Scott).

Francis Gercke and Liliana Talwatte (photos courtesy of Daren Scott).

Watching a close family member’s health decline is always difficult to experience. Going through this process forces many people to think about their own mortality and whether they will suffer a similar fate.

This is the type of conflict that drives Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company’s wonderful production of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Proof.

Set in the back porch of a Chicago house, Catherine (Liliana Talwatte) recently lost her brilliant mathematician father, Robert (Artistic Director, Francis Gercke) who had a mental illness. She shows signs of being similarly intelligent, and is prone to sadness and anger. Catherine begins to fear that she will become too much like her dad.

David Auburn’s script is full of references to mathematics, but his story is a human one that is more about Catherine reflecting on her connection to Robert. As time passes after his funeral, the dialogue deals with increasingly complicated topics. Catherine coming to terms with her father’s legacy is fascinating and moving.

If you have ever cared for an ailing family member, you will find Catherine’s struggles relatable and realistic. Auburn treats these situations with sensitivity.

Director, Anthony Methvin, balances serious and dramatic moments with a surprise amount of clever and playful comedic levity. His staging helps the tale become well-rounded with big shifts in tone during each major sequence.

Several crew members contribute to Methvin’s vision. Yi-Chien Lee’s beautiful set at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center makes audiences feel that they’re in the home of the bright Robert, and Chris Mueller’s lighting hauntingly adds visual depth to the interpretation, particularly during a flashback involving Robert’s notebook.

Liliana Talwatte, Francis Gercke, and William Huffaker.

Liliana Talwatte, Francis Gercke, and William Huffaker.

On stage for almost the entire runtime is Talwatte who captures Catherine’s sarcastic and fragile personality. She memorably depicts Catherine’s emotions from hopeful to depressed.

There are strong supporting performances as well with Gercke being equally charismatic and passionate as Robert, and Wendy Maples authentically portrays Catherine’s overprotective sister, Claire.

Most of the performers have experience acting at venues in San Diego, except for William Huffaker as Robert’s former graduate student, Hal, who starts to potentially fall for his deceased professor’s daughter. Huffaker’s upbeat characterization of Hal is a perfect contrast to Talwatte’s intense portrayal of Catherine.

You do not have to be a math genius to be engrossed by Methvin’s impactful rendition of Proof. Backyard Renaissance has ended their incredible eighth season on a high note.

[box] Show times are Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Fridays at 7:00 p.m, Saturdays at 7:00 p.m, Sundays at 3:00 p.m, and Monday at 7:00 p.m. [/box]

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Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company
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1 Comment

  1. C. Bradshaw Davis on December 11, 2023 at 6:24 pm

    Liliana:
    My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed your performance in “Proof”.
    Your talent to transmit non-verbal emotions is outstanding…you are very talented.
    You and Francis were very successful creating the chemistry between father and daughter.

    We look forward to seeing your work again in the future.

    Brad and Louise

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