I enter the intimate, immersive production space by walking through a leafy garden leading to the backyard of a house on Beacon Hill. Audience members are relaxing in lawn chairs on one side of the house, facing a porch painted green and white. I can hear the crunch of the leaves as the actors move into place for the opening scene, blending with the sound of birds and passing planes. “Cuántos días have you lost?”, Robert (Michael D. Blum) asks his daughter Catherine (Ana Maria Campoy). They talk about the number of days Catherine has spent taking care of her sick father. She struggles to care for her own mental health while being his full-time caretaker. Engaging from the start, Proof Porch Project’s production of David Auburn’s Proof —its first bilingual staging—showcases Latinx theater-makers, narratives, and organizations.
Proof is traveling to the porches of community members across Puget Sound (Beacon Hill, Shoreline, Burien, Port Townsend, and Tacoma) with the intention of making the story more accessible to folks who face transportation barriers. In addition, Porch Proof Project is partnering with Latinx organizations that engage in work aligning with mental health, a central theme of Proof. The hope is to remove the stigmas surrounding mental illness within the Latinx community.
The play follows the story of Catherine’s relationship with her father’s mental health, as well as her her own. Upon the death of her mathematically minded father near the beginning of the show, Catherine’s sister Claire (Sophie Franco) arrives to attend the funeral. Drama ensues as Claire attempts to bring Catherine to New York, fearing for her mental stability after Catherine begins to see visions of her dead father. The entrance of Hal (Doug Fries) further complicates family dynamics, as he falls for Catherine and discovers an important mathematical proof in Robert’s home office. With Catherine’s claim to authorship of the proof, who will believe her?
“I want audiences to recognize the importance of seeing Latinx and brown geniuses on stage,” says Franco. During scenes between family members, the actors quickly shift between English and Spanish, often mid-sentence. “Soy más inteligente que tú,” Catherine says to Claire in a particularly intense argument, their movement strong and pointed as their bodies communicate their emotions. Campoy sits as though melting into her chair, as opposed to her poised and professional sister; the actors’ shoulders, as well as their tone, help convey their characters’ mood swings and clashing personalities. With Arlene Martínez-Vázquez’s clever translation, folks who speak only English can still follow the story.
Near the beginning of Act 2, Robert sits alone onstage in a gray rocking chair. Soft guitar music plays as a pink and orange sunset blooms behind him. I look to my right and a few audience members are sharing a glass of wine with two straws and smiling. The moment is tender and powerful, holding a sense of community that lingers throughout the evening. Proof Porch Project, proofporchproject.com. Free. 13 and over. Ends Sun., Aug. 27.