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July 23, 2013 > Theatre Review: 'Proof' brings powerful presence to SummerFest lineup

Theatre Review: 'Proof' brings powerful presence to SummerFest lineup

By Julie Grabowski

SummerFest ups its game with David Auburn's Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Proof," playing July 25 - 28 at Ohlone College. The story of the discovery of a groundbreaking mathematical proof and the mystery of its authorship framed by issues of genius, mental illness, love, and trust is a compelling and moving experience not to be missed.

A part of Ohlone's entertainment offerings for over 40 years, the SummerFest stage fell dark after the production of "Sweet Charity" in 2010 due to budget cuts and economic difficulties. In a push to bring it back, students put on a "mashup" show of past productions and ones they hoped to do in the future, raising $10,000 to put SummerFest back on its feet. That push is still happening, with "Proof" serving as a fundraiser to help raise the program back to its former level.

In the early days of SummerFest three to four productions would be staged each year with plays, Shakespeare pieces, and musicals all finding a place in the repertoire. The mix ended up morphing into one big musical, which remained the pattern for years afterward. "This is the first time we've done a play in 20 years," says Fred Alim, longtime Theatre Department member and well-versed stage technician with an expert hand in over 100 productions. "We're really excited."

Mathphobes can rest assured: "It's not about math, math is just an element within it," says director Michael Navarra. "It's a mystery about the authorship of a revolutionary mathematical proof, but at its core it's a story about love, trust, and the price of genius."

Catherine has dropped out of school and life to take care of her brilliant mathematician father, suffering from mental illness. In the wake of his death, she struggles with loss, the fear of her own mental state, an unexpected romance, and conflict with her sister. When a startling revelation is made about a notebook found among her father's papers, love and trust are tested with futures and hearts in the balance.

"Proof" is engaging from beginning to end, full of great language and the honesty of struggling people with no easy answers or resolutions. Jessica Bettencourt, Jim Jones, Daniel Carpenter, and Stacey Lynn Bell are a sharp and compatible unit, taking you on an emotional journey with strength, humor, sympathy, and heart. Jim Jones is dynamic and captivating as Robert; he lives the best of Auburn's words and perfectly captures his character's enthusiasm, inspiration, and unique vision of his work and the world. Ohlone alumna Jessica Bettencourt delivers an abrasive and sharp-edged Catherine with a waiting softness just behind the eyes that makes for an intriguing character that you long to know more of. Daniel Carpenter is a likable Hal, comfortable and easy in the guise of math geek/drummer, while Stacey Lynn Bell excels and charms as Catherine's concerned and fix-it-up sister Claire. Sometimes the tempo seems a bit quick with conversations punched out rapid fire without a brief pause to breathe before the next exchange, but overall the quartet generates good chemistry and spark in the various relationships.

The set is simple but grounding, the drab back of a house leaving the color to the characters. Proofs surround the scene, written on the floor and projected onto the house at scene breaks, which symbolize Catherine's entrapment and her journey to breaking free.

"Proof" is a strong and sure-footed production that showcases the outstanding talents of the Ohlone Theatre Department. To ensure more great shows, donate to the SummerFest program via Chris Booras at, volunteer in the shop, try out for the productions, but most of all, come see the show!

"Proof" runs Thursday, July 25 through Saturday, July 27 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 28 at 2 p.m. The July 25 performance will be ALS interpreted. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Group discounts are available. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (510) 659-6031 or visit

July 25 - 28
8 p.m., Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Smith Center at Ohlone College
NUMMI Theatre
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 659-6031
Tickets: $15 adults, $12 students/seniors
Event Parking: $2

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