This is the formula for David Auburn’s Tony/Pulitzer award-winning play “Proof.” Luckily, knowledge of prime numbers is all the math you’ll need to guide you through this play that isn’t about math at all.
The plot revolves around 25-year-old Catherine, who has given up her life to care for her brilliant but mentally ill mathematician father. In the wake of his death, she’s left wondering whether her inheritance will be his genius or madness. The answer is wrapped up in a groundbreaking mathematical proof, the authorship of which is the play’s central mystery.
Sadly, this doesn’t make for very high theatrical stakes. Which is why the play requires an outstanding lead actress. Lucky for the Torrance Theatre Company, they found Charlotte Chanler.
Catherine is required to shift from depression to passion, doubt to arrogance, hope to despair and brilliance to mental instability often within a single scene. What is so remarkable about Chanler’s performance is not just her ability to pull off this constant transformation but to do so without losing the core of Catherine’s character in the upheaval.
In this, she is competently assisted by the rest of the cast. Christine Seibert brings a wonderfully nuanced performance to the role of Catherine’s overbearing older sister, Claire. Michael Grenie is deeply moving as Claire’s father, Robert, and Mark Nelson brings lighthearted charm to Catherine’s love interest, Hal.
The play is intelligently directed by Kari Hayter, and the set design is beautiful to behold. But as with the original Broadway staging, it’s the performance that makes this a must-see. The moment the lights come up and Chanler’s performance begins, you’ll realize it was the most intelligent decision you made since opting out of Calculus in high school.
Nakano Theatre is located at 3330 Civic Center Drive in Torrance. Tickets: $20. For more information, call (310) 781-7171 or visit www.torrancetheatrecompany.com.