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On Theater: Huntington delivers the 'Proof'

David Auburn's Tony Award-winning "Proof" is an intimate drama usually played out on a large stage. Before its current stint at the Huntington Beach Playhouse, it was presented on the spacious dimensions of South Coast Repertory and Golden West College.

Familiar as it may be, and overflowing with incomprehensible mathematical equations, "Proof" nonetheless remains a powerful and involving theater piece, particularly when given a gripping rendition such as the one at Huntington Beach's Library Theater.

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Director James Rice has chosen a cast of four superlative performers, all new to the Huntington Beach stage and, with one exception, all fitting smoothly into their contentious characters. You needn't be a "numbers person" to appreciate the show's raw, visceral interpretations.

"Proof" centers on Catherine (Courtney King), a budding math genius in the mold of her recently deceased father, Robert (Robert Craig), who struggled with dementia during his last few years — an ailment she fears she also has inherited.

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Into her life come two disruptions — Hal (Ben Green), a mathematician and one-time student-acolyte of her father's who becomes a romantic force, and Claire (Holly Baker-Kreiswirth), Catherine's older, more pragmatic sister who aims to sell Catherine's Chicago house and move her, against her will, to New York and a new life.

King's electrified interpretation of Catherine is one of the finest witnessed on a local stage this year, passionate both in love and algorithms. She performs with fiery dedication against these three competing forces in her life, most impressively with Green's dynamic researcher, and scathingly opposite her encroaching sister.

Green delivers a solid, earnest portrayal as the former student who discovers a hidden gem among his former teacher's works. His awkward advances to Catherine — and her enthusiastic responses — are splendid theatrical choices.

The dissonance offered by Baker-Kreiswirth as the big sister enriches the show considerably. An "outsider" among math mavens, she brings a strong dose of the real world into the equation.

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The only discordant note is sounded by Craig's all-too-overbearing father. Seen first as a figment of his daughter's imagination and then in a pair of flashbacks, Craig employs volume and vitriol in a situation that requires mere frustration rather than the hellfire force of an evangelical preacher in the first flashback, finally striking the right chord in the second as his character slips into a demented fog.

The backyard setting, designed and dressed by Andrew Otero, who also created the effective costumes, is one of the finest yet seen at the playhouse. Dallas Lucero's lighting designs and Stephen Sands' sound also are excellent.

The Huntington Beach Playhouse's production of "Proof" stands as proof of the potential for excellence in community theater when a solid cast and crew are aligned.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.

If You Go

What: "Proof"

Where: Huntington Beach Playhouse, Library Theater, 7111 Talbert Ave.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through June 12

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Cost: $18 to $20

Information: (714) 375-0696 or http://www.hbplayhouse.com

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