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. Review: Cast up to the challenge in Richey Suncoast's 'How the Other Half Loves'


    Theater has many plays where there are two completely different apartments depicted on the stage, usually split down the middle, one on the right, one on the left.

    "How the Other Half Loves" runs weekends through Oct. 29 at Richey Suncoast Theatre in New Port Richey. Cast members are Christine Stoll and  David Daly (in front) and Bob Marcela, Heather Clark, Mike Worssell and Blake Parker (in back, from left). [Photo by Jess Glass]
  2. Review: Excellent cast delivers entertaining production of 'Young Frankenstein' at Stage West


    I went to see the musical comedy Young Frankenstein at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill with some trepidation. I had seen a very good production of the show at another theater a couple of years ago, and I was concerned that I would subconsciously compare the two to the detriment of one or the …

    "Young Frankenstein" plays weekends through Oct. 29 at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill. Keith Surplus, left, performs as Igor and Lynda Dilts-Benson, right, as Frau Blucher. [Photo by Carol Ballard]
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Oct. 23-29


    R. L. Stine: It's fitting that the week before Halloween, USF's Lecture Series features the popular horror author known for the Goosebumps series. Stine will discuss his career, creative process and sign books Wednesday at the Marshall Student Center in Tampa. Free. .

    ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 09: Singer Anthony Hamilton performs onstage at the 2014 Ford Neighborhood Awards Hosted By Steve Harvey at the Phillips Arena on August 9, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images for Ford Neighborhood Awards)
  4. Seasoned cast scores an extra-base hit for St. Petersburg Opera with 'Faust'


    TAMPA — Charles Gounod's Faust sets the table early. The world-weary philosopher immortalized in a dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in his study, lamenting his state of affairs. He's willing to give away everything he has to be young again, even his soul.

    The St. Petersburg Opera Company begins its season with Faust, in a production seemingly aligned with the original intent of French composer Charles Gounod and librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. [St. Petersburg Opera Company]
  5. 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.