“Proof” is a bucket list show for director Deborah Brauch. This magnificent play, which won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Actress for Mary-Louise Parker’s portrayal of Catherine Llewellyn, is a story of mental illness and mathematical genius. Catherine, the daughter of a brilliant but unstable math professor, allows a former graduate student to look through her late father’s papers. Amid stacks of clearly deranged mathematical proofs is one notebook containing an elegant, revolutionary new proof. Catherine claims ownership of the discovery. Over the course of a weekend with her estranged sister and a disbelieving smitten grad student, Catherine is forced to confront just how much of her father’s madness, and genius, she may inherit.
Brauch was introduced to the play through a UNO production over a decade ago, while working on her BA in psychology. She was immediately entranced. “It was the first time I had ever seen such an honest presentation of bipolar disorder.”
At the time, directing the play did not occur to her. Brauch was active in theater during her high school and college years. The pull of work and marriage and children took her away for years. Her daughter caught the theater bug in middle school and auditioned for a show at Mills Masquers. A year later Brauch was on the Masquers’ stage herself. In no time her husband, never a theater enthusiast, was building sets, working back stage, and performing as Officer Krupke in “West Side Story.”
Brauch has been active at Mills Masquers since 2012, but given her background as a mental health professional, the portrayal of mental illness in this production is special. “Their voices get represented badly in the media,” she notes. “David Auburn does such an amazing job of writing about people with mental illness and what it really looks like. Robert [Catherine’s math professor father] could easily have been one of my patients. I love how Auburn portrays him.”
Mary Beth Slater stars as Catherine. The cast also includes Christian Jenson as Hal, Clay Major as Robert and Kaylee Sobbing as Claire. The production is a family affair, with Deborah Brauch directing, daughter Micah Brauch assistant directing, and husband Gerry Brauch designing the set.
The Mills Masquers’ production of “Proof,” By David Auburn, will run October 20-22 and October 27-29. Curtain is at 7:30 Friday and Saturday, and 2:00 pm on Sunday. Tickets are a bargain: adults $10; students and senior citizens $9; and $6 for children twelve and younger. For reservations call the theater at (712) 527-3600 or click on the Contact Us page on their website: http://www.millsmasquers.org/. Someone will return your call to confirm your reservation. Tickets are also available at the Glenwood State Bank. Mills Masquers is located at 56543 221st Street in Glenwood, Iowa. Questions? Visit the Mills Masquers’ Facebook page or call them at (712) 527-3600.