Human Equation

Bristol Riverside Theatre finds ‘Proof.’

By: Megan Sullivan
   After an eight-hour rehearsal at Bristol Riverside Theatre, actresses Sabrina Veroczi and Bronwen Coleman have to check in with each other to make sure they’re still on good terms.
   "We have a very complicated relationship (onstage) where we end up screaming at each other half the time," Ms. Veroczi says. "So then after you finish rehearsing, you have to be like, ‘How is everything?’" Ms. Bronwen adds.
   The two women star as sisters in David Auburn’s drama Proof, which runs in Bristol, Pa., March 14 to April 2. Ms. Veroczi plays Catherine, the daughter of the brilliant but mentally disturbed mathematician Robert, and Ms. Coleman is Claire, her sister from New York who returns home to Chicago after their father’s death. BRT Artistic Director Edward Keith Baker joins the cast as Robert and Eric Alperin plays Hal, Robert’s former student who wants to search through his old notebooks.
   Proof debuted at the Manhattan Theater Club in New York in 2000 and had a two-year sold out run on Broadway. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for best play in 2001, Mary Louise Parker won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Catherine and Daniel Sullivan won for director. Proof was also made into a major motion picture released in 2005, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis and Anthony Hopkins.
   "I’m holding off on the movie until we finish (the play)," says Ms. Veroczi, who first appeared at BRT about eight years ago as Marie Louise in My Three Angels. "And I’m actually having to keep everybody I know from watching it."
   "It’s better not to," adds Ms. Coleman, who moved to New York about seven years ago from Melbourne, Australia, to complete a master’s degree in fine arts at the Actor’s Studio Drama School. "The play has all these twists and turns, so I would say you wouldn’t want to see the film beforehand. It spoils it."
   The two women agree that the play is one that everybody can relate to, in the context of an engaging story. "(Auburn) is dealing with subjects that are pretty universal in terms of family relationships, betrayal amongst family and how the family members deal with that," says Ms. Coleman, whose film and TV credits include Capote, Mona Lisa Smile and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. "Then he’s putting it in the context of a subject that is quite interesting and not well understood which is the connection between genius and madness."
   Ms. Veroczi, who was most recently seen onstage in the New York debut of Richard Kalinoski’s Beast on the Moon at Century Center, says Auburn’s writing is what drew her in initially. "It’s such an incredible piece of work," she says. "It’s so complicated, but it’s simple and honest. I think there are things in there that anyone can connect with — I know I could.
   "It’s the kind of thing where you read it and have this kind of immediate visceral reaction," she continues. "I think there are so many levels that it works on… you could look at it intellectually, you could see it emotionally, you could just see it dramatically."
   The hardest part about playing Catherine, who tries to come to grips with her own possible insanity, is portraying somebody who is vastly intelligent and "just trying to figure out how someone who’s that smart would act or would do anything," Ms. Veroczi says.
   In trying to give a plot summary of the play, the women realize that everything gives something else away. "You sort of get information as you go along," Ms. Coleman says. "You piece the story together as the characters are piecing it together."
   "I think there are a lot of things that you learn in every scene that will surprise you and change your perception of the story," Ms. Veroczi says. "You constantly adjust to what you know. I think that’s also part of what’s interesting about the play for everyone is that it does do that — it challenges what you know and what you believe."
Proof will be staged at Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol, Pa., March 14-April 2. Previews: March 14-15, 8 p.m. Opening night: March 16, 8 p.m. Performances: Thurs.-Fri. 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. 2, 8 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m. Tickets cost $29-$37. For information, call (215) 785-0100. On the Web: Bristol Riverside Theatre and King George II Inn will offer an evening of fine dining and entertainment March 31, 6 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres and a dinner buffet will be followed by an 8 p.m. performance of Proof. Tickets cost $50; For information, call (215) 785-6664.