Another solid week of performance on campus.
Hannah Neville ’14 led a poised quartet of actors in a production in the Weitz rehearsal room of David Auburn’s drama Proof, which told the story of a father-daughter mathematical duo with mental health problems that struggle to balance work and sanity.
Robert, played by Carleton Bookstore’s textbook manager Brendon Etter ‘92, is a renown UChicago academic who spent the last few years of his life filling notebook after notebook with nonsense after a mental breakdown. Her daughter Charlotte, played by Neville for her theater COMPS, is a talented thinker in her own right who had to forgo her formal education to take care of her ailing father.
After his death, she’s left to wonder whether she’ll follow her father’s footsteps with respect to both math and madness.
One of the great aspects of Neville’s acting was her ability to execute sharp and credible swings of mood, which was needed as Catherine tries to probe and make up her mind.
The flashbacks featuring Etter and Neville together make for the most wonderful and chilling moments of the play. The lighting was particularly good during those scenes.
Berett Wilber ‘14 played Catherine’s half-hearted sister Claire who arrives to convince her to move to New York and seek treatment.
Meanwhile, lingering about the deceased’s house is Robert’s overly earnest graduate student Hal. Nathan Bern ‘17 does a good job of making it murky whether his character is truly interested in Catherine or merely tries to get close to her as a means of accessing her father’s work. Bern’s awkwardness and geek jokes provided to best laughs of the night.
Director Max Henkel ’14 did a phenomenal job of preparing the set’s leaves, ensuring each was carefully painted with the appropriate early autumn hue.
At times, the script felt a bit too melodramatic, but the actors were able to maintain a level of suspense so that the big reveals through the course of the play were still a step ahead of you.
The only problem I had with Proof was that its treatment of mathematics was hand-wavy as hell. Show, don’t tell, the saying goes. Unfortunately, Auburn asserted over and over how brilliant and elegant the protagonists’ math was but did little to indicate how so. When Hal finally has to say something specific about advanced math towards the end of the show all he can muster is “elliptical curves” and “modular forms.” I’m no math major, but those sound … wait, nevermind I googled them and turns out they are real things. Still, it sounds like something you’d write when you were trying to make something up. I mean, don’t all ellipsis have curves? A math friend tells me I’m wrong. I’ll shut up.
That digression aside, it was a nice finale for Neville, who has always delivered consistent performances in her many ETB and Carleton Players shows.
Things were a bit more existential over in Little Norse. Big props to Rebecca Stimson ’15 for tackling such a difficult work as Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.
Joseph Garcin, Ines Serrano and Estelle Rigault are three recently deceased sent to a room in hell where the only torture turns out to be each other.
Ian MacEneany ’17 is a newspaper man who spent his whole life building up a daring career before showing to be a coward by avoiding military service.
Sarah Olson ‘15 is a lady of high society who cheats on her husband and kills her lovechild. In hell, she tries to latch on to MacEneany’s character because she apparently can’t live without man.
Hitting on her is Charlotte Foran ‘15 ‘s character, a lesbian post office clerk whose past is likewise filled with betrayal and murder.
The trio takes turns swirling and yelling at each other; each possiblity of calm or release unravels in a matter of seconds.
Carleton Keedy ’14 made only a brief appearance as one of hell’s valets and was enjoyably creepy in his fresh red velvet costume.
We discover that the title is a bit of a misnomer – the door out of the room in fact gets opened and for most of the show the characters can see into the world they’ve left behind.
Sartre seems interested in exploring the role other people’s attention plays in (dis)forming our own consciousness. I wish I had more time now to think and write about his work and the performance, but I gotta run ... sorry : (
Tonight at 8 p.m. in Little Nourse is your last chance to see The Caucasian Chalk Circle. One of those bits of trivia that every Carl should know is that the Bertolt Brecht play premiered at our school back in 1948. Theater vet Julie “Foghorn” Leghorn ’14 is directing her last show so it should be a treat.