WEDNESDAY, FEB. 8: Producing artistic director for the upcoming play Proof said that the production is enjoying a “second life” off the back of its original success.
Bernard Harvard of Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre is bringing its version of the critically acclaimed production to Bermuda this month as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.
The original David Auburn play went to Broadway in 2000 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2001. The entire cast for the Broadway production won Tony nominations for their performances with Mary-Louise Parker winning a Tony in her role as Catherine.
The play was then adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Harvard said he is glad to now be breathing life back into Proof after its initial boom period.
“I think we are doing it on a rebound,” he told the Bermuda Sun. “It was enormously successful — after it played on Broadway and won the Tony — every major regional theatre in America produced it.
“When it was first produced, it was unavailable to us in terms of the rights because we are so close to New York City.
“Several years on I am able to obtain the rights for (Walnut Street’s) second stage and also for the tour. It really is having a second life.”
The play explores the fine line between brilliance and insanity. It tells the story of Catherine (Alex Keiper) whose father Robert (Bill Van Horn), a Math professor at Chicago University and one-time genius, suffers a mental breakdown. Catherine, herself a student of math, drops out of college to care for her father who tragically dies before her 25th birthday.
Catherine begins to show signs of clinical depression while dealing with the return of her sister Claire and the affections of Hal (David Raphaely) — a former student of Robert who intends to prove his mentor’s genius.
Hal trawls through piles of notebooks searching for the evidence until he finds one striking mathematical proof.
The next conundrum is proving whether it was Robert’s finding as Catherine claims it as her own. While her sister Claire (Krista Apple) believes she has some of the brilliance of their father, she does believe that she is also touched by his madness. Hal is also out to prove Catherine wrong and the plot is said to build in intensity and suspense.
It is unpredictable and will keep the audience guessing until the end.
So what attracted Harvard to the story?
“I think it was the dynamic between father and daughter and the mystery surrounding the mathematical proof — there’s a sort of madness associated with it and you are left wondering how much is based on heredity and how much is environmental in terms of the influence the father had over the daughter.
“You’ve got two daughters who are diametrically opposite to one another one is very buttoned down, corporate and married while the other believes she is very well adjusted and the other daughter is a bit of a misfit — but a genius in her own right.”
Harvard has been producing artistic director of the Walnut Street Theatre for 29 years. In his role he is responsible for choosing all the programming, hiring the artistic teams — the director, designers, choreographer and actors included — and is also in charge of the money and even selling the tickets. Walbut is America’s oldest continuously operating theatre and has an annual budget of $14 million.
He said that the play has been set in small theatre’s as opposed to the original production which he feels will be to its advantage.
He explained: “Given that we are producing it in smaller venues, I think it will be a lot more powerful because of the intimacy of those venues. Upstairs at the Walnut Theatre we have a second, small studio which only has 80 seats. In that studio I have produced things like Glass Menagerie and I am producing new and more edgy work there including Proof. The audience who come to see plays there tend to be a lot more adventurous.”
Where: City Hall Theatre
When: Friday, February 10 & Saturday, February 11
Tickets: $65 or $25 for students. Visit www.bermudafestival.org or www.bdatix.bm.