Central Square Theater’s “Proof” brings fresh faces to the stage with Asian stars. Three of the four cast members are Asian American, with the exception of Avery Bargar: Cheryl Daro, Lisa Nguyen and Michael Tow. The production’s director Michelle Aguillon is also Asian American, who came from the Philippines as a child.
“This play has no real mention of race, but every time it’s performed, it’s done with a Caucasian family,” Tow said. “There are a lot of parallels to Asian families, with taking care of elderly family members, the math piece and career ideas.”
“Proof” tells the story of Catherine, an enigmatic woman mourning her brilliant father Robert, when she meets Hal, an unanticipated suitor. Catherine has given up college studies to care for her unstable father. She finds a groundbreaking mathematical proof in her father’s notebooks, but fears she has inherited her father’s mental illness.
“Catherine has an interesting relationship with her sister, father and Hal, this guy,” Aguillon said. “She’s trying to find her place in the world, which is represented by Hal, as she adjusts to people outside of her comfort zone.”
In the Central Square production, Aguillon and the cast decided who Catherine’s mother was, establishing her as a first-generation Chinese immigrant who died when Catherine was 18. While Tow is a fourth-generation Chinese American, Daro is the child of Filipino immigrants and Nguyen’s family is from Vietnam.
“We need more Asians on film, TV, theater,” Tow said. “It’s so important for young people to see themselves on stage.”
David Auburn’s “Proof” was winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It was released as a feature film in 2005, starring Anthony Hopkins as Robert, Gwyneth Paltrow as Catherine, Jake Gyllenhaal as Hal and Hope Davis as Claire.
“This is the first time I was directed by an Asian American,” Tow said of working with Aguillon. “There’s a difference and another level of connection.”
Tow and Aguillon both worked in finance before pursuing their theater dreams, to please their families. Today, Aguillon is thrilled to see more Asian actors.
“I told them I hope they audition for everything, not just Asian roles,” Aguillon said. “We have to shift the ideals of who’s represented in a story, such as ‘Hamilton’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice.’”
“Proof” will play at Central Square Theater until Feb. 18. Tickets are available at www.centralsquaretheater.org.
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