Saturday, March 9, 2013

REVIEW: Serendipity Players Give us "Proof"

This play has some resemblance to the award-winning film, A Beautiful Mind. The tortured souls of people with extraordinary minds, unable to deal with the everyday, common world and, in this case, trapped in their own obsessive world of numbers.

Is it life, if only lived in the mind? Or, is it madness?

 The Math Path

The story takes place on the back porch of a suburban home in Chicago between 2008 and 2012. It concerns the daughter, Catherine (Valerie Martinka Davis) of a brilliant mathematician, who is not only dealing with her father's, [Robert (David Hudkins)] death, but must come to terms with the legacy he’s left behind. He was, in his final years, obsessed with numbers and may have been slowly going insane.

And she has been his only caregiver, sacrificing her human needs to administer to his. She has also followed in his footsteps, becoming absorbed in mathematical equations herself and may be cutting herself off, too, from the everyday world, as he did.

Has she inherited, not only his genius for numbers, but also his obsession with them? Will she also tumble down that slippery slope to madness? Is this her legacy and, if so, will she embrace it, or will it consume her, too?

Her lifelines to the “real” world are in the form of one of his students, Hal (Michael Lissman), who seems to have found a happy balance between Math and the more common aspects of life. As he becomes immersed in the notes of his dead tutor, her father, they find a more human-like entanglement with each other. And her sister, Claire (Sarah DeGrave) arrives to “rescue” her from a mind-filled but perhaps mind-less life. Being a genius may not be all its “cracked” up to be. If one cannot find a balance, then one may have to choose. “And, therein, lies a tale.”

The story does not concentrate on finding the ultimate proof in a math theory, but more on the purpose of life and the dynamics in relationships. Wisely, Alicia Maria Turvin, the Director, has chosen to find the truth within the characters themselves and how they relate to one another. Finding truth in the role you’re playing and convincing an audience of that truth, is the ultimate “proof” on the stage. And she has exceeded here well, with all four of her cast members.

The Talent

Davis, as the lead, is extremely expressive in showing the inner turmoil and complexities of her character. She seethes with passion, both in her obsessions with math, but also with her feelings for Hal. She is totally believable, playing a very human woman, dealing with the anguish of loss, the cost of being a genius and the need for human warmth. I hope we see more of this talented lady onstage.

 Actors Valerie Martinka Davis (Catherine) and David Hudkins (Robert).
Photo courtesy of Christopher Paradee.
Hudkins, as her father, equals her every step of the way. The different levels he must play in this story, are an actor’s dream. He must act, at the beginning, as his daughter’s conscience; in flashbacks, as a man trying to be a good father, and then slipping uncontrollably into obsession and madness. An acting tour-de-force.

The young man could have been a throwaway role. But Lissman gives it depth, allowing us to see his own struggles with math, the real world and love. And the romantic scenes between he and Davis do touch the heart and have a fire within them.

DeGrave is likewise convincing as the sister of Catherine. In lesser hands she could have come off as the villain, interfering and trying to dominate her sister’s life. But DeGrave shows us also a caring human being, trying to save her loved one from the same fate their father encountered. She, too, is someone to watch in future roles.

The Setting

It is obvious that the director has spent a great deal of time exploring the depths of these characters with her actors. And the porch setting and lighting are nicely done. But, being such a small stage, everything is noticed, therefore, should have purpose.

For instance, there is a lawnmower leaning against the house which is never used, so probably, doesn’t need to be there. Also, the interior of the house is brightly lit but has nothing on the walls, like pictures, to indicate the life within. And, at one point, a party is talked about going on in the home, but no subtle hum of activity is present. Small observations, maybe, and none of this really interferes with the success of the show, but it would have been nice to stretch the reality of it a little further.

I would highly recommend the show, especially for the acting and directing. The opening night show was sparsely attended and deserves a larger audience. If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

"Proof" is written by David Auburn and directed by Alicia Maria Turvin.


The production run includes performances at 8 p.m. on March 9, 14, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30, with Sunday matinee performances at 2 p.m. on March 10, 17, 24, 31. Thursday, March 14 at 8 p.m. is a "Pay What You Will" performance. All performances take place at The Serendipity Playhouse, 500 Washington St., Vancouver, Wash. Reservations are strongly recommended for all performances, and unclaimed seats will be sold five minutes before start of each show.

WARNING: This play has strong language which some people may find offensive. Although not gratuitous, the f-bomb is part of speech for these characters. The play is not recommend for children.


Tickets are $15 general admission and may be purchased online at, or reservations can be made by calling 360-834-3588. Tickets are also available at the door. Doors open 30 minutes before the performance.

Serendipity Players is a non-equity, semi-professional theater company.

Review by Dennis Sparks, Guest Reviewer

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