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May 2nd, 2014

What Do You Have To Prove?

Everyone has something to prove. Proof is the foundation of an idea; if we do not have proof of something, we question its truth. If we do not have evidence of a certain fact, we search for it until we find it. The act of searching for this confirmation is an essential part of human life. And while we must accept that we as humans have no proof for some things, we will always set out in pursuit of the truth. Montreat College’s production of “Proof” by David Auburn is full of people who long for this validation.

“Proof” is a play about depression, grief, insanity, loss, and how you learn to cope with these things. It centers around Catherine, the daughter of a brilliant mathematician, who dropped out of school to assist her mentally ill father in his old age. The play deals with the aftermath of the death of Catherine’s father and the work he leaves in his wake. As a result, each remaining character finds themselves dealing with the “proof” he left behind. The proof brings the three main characters together, but the conflict is not resolved without incredible tension. It takes the entirety of the play to arrive at a resolution, and it it is only through fiery arguments, trust issues, and an occasional dose of madness that they get there.

The performance was beautiful. No one in the audience dared take a breath until the intermission. The production gripped you and didn’t let loose for a moment. The performances were so raw and emotion-filled that the audience could only stare and be astonished by what was transpiring. 

I left the play thinking—don’t we all have something we are trying to prove? And how can we find the proof that leads us to belief in something that is true? Often we have no way of knowing which is the “right” way to turn, but we must look for the little pieces of proof along the way.

This is the case with the characters in Auburn’s play; it is clear that their directions are confused. Throughout the story, you find yourself questioning the sanity and reliability of each character in turn. Each role demonstrates that madness and intelligence are often intertwined; in fact, it could be argued that each of the characters are insane in their own unique way. This is true to our condition; perhaps we are all crazy, and some of us are just more normal than others. The thing that makes this production valuable is that these characters are passionate, angry, frustrated people who are struggling on their search for validation; the play is a manifestation of a believable, real-life situation.

The play is a different type of play than Montreat is used to, but I believe that this production was important for Montreat, and ultimately, it achieves it’s goal, in that it initiates conversation. It gets “the machinery” working in each audience member and leaves them pondering long after walking out the doors of the Manor House.

The actors and actresses should be applauded for their very brave, vulnerable performances. Such raw emotion, shared between actors, likely created countless uncomfortable instances. Though some of the mature content made for what some would call questionable moments, I believe it was necessary in the play’s execution. I know a key aspect of Christianity is that we are supposed to be “in the world, but not of it,” but at the same time, we cannot really get around that fact that we are in it. In the end, we live in an imperfect world; this play is a product of that imperfect world. In fact, every last thing we do in this life is bound to be imperfect from the start. Personally, I saw “Proof” twice and loved it both times. In my opinion, it is art, and sometimes the job of art is to portray imperfect reality as it actually exists.

As Christians, we don’t always need proof in order to know that something is true. We believe “by faith, not by sight.” However, the tension between faith and proof can create an abundance of uncertainty within us. But whatever our uncertainty, it is important to remember that there is a reason behind everything. We may not find proof of what direction to go or what to believe, but for those of us who are wondering and wandering, we must hold fast, because there is proof. Our greatest proof is the truth of the love that God expressed to us through His son dying on the cross, saving us from the chains of sin. Honestly, that’s all the proof I’ll ever need.