I have recently posted on a local play I am involved with. It is a community theater production of Proof, by David Auburn.  As the lighting guy, I have to watch the production carefully so I can pick up the lighting cues. It isn’t heavy brain work, but it does require accuracy and an ever-so-slight amount of flair. In the course of this I have the chance to watch the actors closely and note the subtilties of their performance.

Act 1 Scene 1 opens with Catherine having a discussion with her father- recently deceased- out on the back porch. Here the actor playing Catherine sets the tone for the play. She transitions from a normal tone with her mathmatician father to the glum realization that he is dead.

After intermission, Act 2 Scene 5 reverts to 5 or so years in the past. In this scene Catherine is a younger woman anxious to leave home to begin school. What is so absolutely scintillating is the manner in which this actor did so. In contrast to the morose, sarcastic, and angry young woman trying to deal with her father’s death, she now plays the character as optimistic, charming ,and enthusiastic.  Done properly, this scene lurches the audience down a completely different emotional cascade and further invests them in the outcome.

This is a sign of a good writer at work. Hook the viewers with intriguing circumstances and lurch them from one emotional track to another in unexpected ways. This promotes emotional connection with the story and the suspension of disbelief. When performed by good players, the show comes alive.