Theater review | thru sept. 29 The Phoenix Theatre began its season with style, presenting the Indiana premiere of David Auburn"s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Proof on the Underground stage, which is running in tandem with the hysterical musical Bat Boy upstairs.

Alissa Stamatis and Jade Graves in the Phoenix Theatre"s "Proof"

Proof, which is still running on Broadway, is a corker of a show. A snappy, well-written, intelligent script was translated to the stage with finesse by director Bryan Fonseca and his cast. Within the first 15 or 20 minutes you get a popper of a surprise, and the first act ends with an even better one - neither of which will I spoil for you. The script is funny - and the delivery of the humor is flawless in a matter-of-fact, real-life style - as well as hopeful and desperate in a life-seeking way by turns. This little-over-two-hour show leaves you feeling satisfied. The story revolves around Catherine (Alissa Stamatis), a 25-year-old girl who quits college to take care of her father, Robert (Rich Komenich), who was a math genius in his early 20s and then succumbed to dementia. Catherine is fearful that she will inherit her father"s mental instabilities. Hal, one of Robert"s former students, discovers a math proof in one of Robert"s notebooks that could revolutionize mathematics. Catherine"s sister, Claire (Kelli Walker), gets involved and everything gets rather complicated. Though going to a show about math seemed rather dull to me at first (I was an English major), I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Proof isn"t about math. It"s about the relationships between a father and daughter, sisters and a man and women - most of which boil down to trust. Instead of being subjected to long discussions about mathematical formulae, Auburn keeps the story closely focused on his well-drawn characters. Stamatis gets better and better each time I see her onstage, most recently in Gorey Stories (ShadowApe), Lunching (Phoenix)and The Taming of the Shrew (Indiana Repertory Theatre). As Catherine, she is nothing short of amazing. Catherine is a sensitive girl with a strong streak of independence quashed by her responsibilities to her father, who she loves dearly. Catherine tumbles through a wide range of emotions throughout the show, and Stamatis manages each one. Her interaction with sister Claire provides some of the show"s best humor. Walker"s Claire is so pretentiously, self-righteously Martha Stewart pre-scandal that you want to hurl something at her. Claire"s martyr-like patience and Catherine"s bitter explosions are brilliant. Graves gives an easy-going performance as Hal, a likeable young math professor. He complements everyone he interacts with, and plays well opposite Catherine. Komenich gets scant stage time as Robert, in a rather flat presentation that reminded me of his performance in the Phoenix" Fuddy Meers. The entirety of the show takes place on a beautiful porch set (thanks to Greg Haydock) outside Catherine and Robert"s home. The action taking place in the second act jumps around a bit, so check your program during intermission to follow along. Proof continues through Oct. 13; Wednesdays at 6 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. (Sept. 19 performance starts at 6 p.m.), Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22.50; $10 for those 24 and under. Call 635-PLAY for reservations.

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