Make us your home page

Innovocative Theatre company debuts with workmanlike production of 'Proof'

Dennis Duggan plays Robert Marie-Claude Tremblay plays Catherine in Innovocative Theatre's first production, Proof, by David Auburn. Photo courtesy of Staci Sabarsky.

Dennis Duggan plays Robert Marie-Claude Tremblay plays Catherine in Innovocative Theatre's first production, Proof, by David Auburn. Photo courtesy of Staci Sabarsky.

TAMPA — A new company debuts with Proof, David Auburn's Pulitzer-winning play. Innovocative Theatre, founded by Dunedin native Staci Sabarsky, is currently running productions out of Stageworks Theatre space. Sabarsky also directs and performs in the show.

The story, in which the subjects of mathematical genius, family dynamics and mental illness are intertwined, was by 2002 the most widely produced play in the country. A 2005 film followed, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. For Innovocative, the launch shows a bold new venture standing on shaky legs, taking a shot at Sabarsky's stated mission of diving into thought-provoking and controversial issues.

It's an admirable first step. Four characters, each with well defined yet vastly different goals, split a heavy load. Each has shining moments, even if the production as a whole seems more workmanlike than gripping.

The script jumps back and forth in time, beginning with a solitary birthday celebration. Catherine has turned 25, and she's not quite alone — her late father Robert has reappeared for a chat and to supply the champagne. His brilliance as a University of Chicago mathematician, undermined later in life by mental instability, foreshadows her own path.

Her sister, Claire (played by Sabarsky), will soon appear, intent on straightening family affairs after Robert's death. And there's Robert's nerdy but amiable student Hal (Devin Devi), who has just completed his doctoral thesis. At stake lies the fate of a notebook Hal found in Robert's study, containing a lengthy mathematical proof. Hal declares the proof, which concerns prime numbers, would "change mathematics" if true, though we never find out how.

But who wrote it? And to whom, by the way, do great discoveries belong — only to the author, or to the world which stands to gain by them? The play spends much time unwrapping those questions, neatly framed around a struggle between sisters and a budding romance. Indeed there are some nice contrasts shown by Marie-Claude Tremblay, who plays Catherine, and Sabarsky as the controlling Claire. For the most part, Tremblay brought an appealing naturalness to Catherine, though at times her frustration seemed stagey and forced.

Dennis Duggan is an interesting choice as Robert, who shows up in flashbacks sprinkled throughout. We're told about a restive, brilliant mind but see a mostly folksy and amiable father, albeit one who keeps his daughter on a tight leash. It doesn't help that the vaunted script offers no dialogue for this genius that would evince more than above average intelligence. (The otherwise representational set strikes a similarly discordant note with its equations scribbled on the stage floor, apparently because why not, this is about math.)

Duggan does, however, reach the character's humanity in a lovely monologue about the college's fall season. It's a moment that captures the heart of the play and rewards us for having come to see it.

Contact Andrew Meacham at or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

.If you go


Runs through July 30 at Stageworks Theatre, 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Suite 151, Tampa. $30-$35. (813) 374-2416.

Innovocative Theatre company debuts with workmanlike production of 'Proof' 07/25/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 25, 2017 12:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway


    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  2. A scene from "Epiphany."
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 22


    Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers, with their blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, lead the lineup. 1:30 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $16 per day, $45 reserved, $170 VIP. (727) 461-5200.

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15:  (L-R)  Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett, and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers pose for a portrait at the "May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers" Premiere - 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 21


    Conor Oberst: The Bright Eyes mastermind will be joined by opener, the Felice Brothers. 8 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $30.50-$36. (727) 791-7400.

    Handout photo of Conor Oberst, performing Oct. 21 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Credit: Grandstand Media
  5. McDonald's soft serve in Florida is made with handshakes and happy cows


    Floridians licked nine million McDonald's vanilla cones last year.

    Calves play with a rubber toy at the Milking R Dairy in Okeechobee, FL. Owners Sutton Rucks, Jr., and his wife Kris Rucks sell their milk to SouthEast Dairies cooperative, Edward Coryn of Dairy Mix in St. Petersburg buys it, transforms it into soft-serve ice cream base, and sells it to all the McDonald's. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times