'Proof'

Connor Moulaison and Hannah Rants perform a scene from Proof, the new production by the Lynden Performing Arts Guild. (Bill Helm/Lynden Tribune)

THEATER: Lynden Performing Arts Guild to perform story that deals with mental illness of a family member

LYNDEN — Teri Grimes knows what it’s like to deal with mental illness.

Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, Grimes lost her brother.

When the Lynden Performing Arts Guild began to make plans for its first production since before the pandemic, Grimes chose a story that felt most familiar to her.

“My brother was schizophrenic,” Grimes said. “This play speaks to me on a personal level.”

‘Proof’ is the story about the daughter of a famous mathematician who suffers from schizophrenia. Beginning Sept. 16, and for the next three weekends, The Guild will perform ‘Proof’ at The Claire Theater, 655 Front St., in the Dutch Village Mall.

“I’ve wanted to do this story for such a long time,” Grimes said Monday. “Because it’s such a beautiful story. Because it’s about proof on so many levels. It’s not just a play about mathematics. It’s a play about how a family tries to function when one of its members is ill. I like that aspect of the play, a play about a family that dealt with mental illness.”

In her director’s notes, Grimes calls ‘Proof’ a story about love.

“It challenges us to think about what it means to love and be loved as a child, a sibling, a parent, a student, a teacher, a romantic partner, and, most importantly, what it takes to love oneself,” Grimes wrote.

Written by David Auburn, ‘Proof’ premiered off-Broadway in May 2020, then performed on Broadway later that year. ‘Proof’ won the Tony Award for best play and the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

‘This nasty disease’

Another reason Grimes pitched ‘Proof’ to The Guild’s board of directors was that the size of the cast. Only four actors, only one set.

“So the chances of spreading this nasty disease were less,” Grimes said.

‘Proof’ stars Hannah Rants as Catherine, whose father Robert (played by Mark Miller) has schizophrenia. ‘Proof’ is Rants’ third community theatre production. As the lead, Rants “has to carry this show,” Grimes said.

“She has poise, intelligence and a depth of characterization that is amazing in one so young,” Grimes said.

‘Proof’ is Miller’s 15th production at The Claire Theater. Grimes said he is a “strong, centered actor who can draw an emotional response from an audience with just a gesture or a look.”

‘Proof’ also stars Tori Niewohner as Claire (Catherine’s sister) and Connor Moulaison as Hal, a former graduate student of Robert’s.

The plot alternates between events immediately following Robert’s death, and flashbacks revealing the life he shared Catherine, who also is a mathematician.

Living in her father’s shadow, Catherine struggles with balancing her studies while she provides care for her father. She also fears that she may have inherited his mental illness.

The day of Robert’s funeral, Claire arrives in town, a neurotic New Yorker.

Grimes said recently that Niewohner is “reaching new depths as an actress” in her role as Catherine’s antagonist.

“Tori is finding her inner-steel and captures the extremely complex character with much insight and passion,” Grimes said.

Moulaison, who in real life is Rants’ significant other, has “probably the best natural instincts in an actor” that Grimes has seen in a long time.

Moulaison, who said his favorite actor is Daniel Day-Lewis, has “spot-on instincts on how to create a compelling character,” Grimes said.

‘Proof’

One of Whatcom County’s preeminent cultural venues, The Claire Theater was named for Claire vg Thomas, who helped establish the Lynden Performing Arts Guild. The 160-seat theater is located inside the Dutch Village Mall on Front Street in Lynden.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16-18, 23-25, and Sept. 30-Oct. 2; 2 p.m. for Sunday matinees Sept. 19, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3.

Tickets are available at TheClaire.Org or by phone 360-354-4425, Tuesdays-Fridays 1 p.m.-3 p.m.

Cost is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors (ages 62 and older), $11 for children (ages 9 and younger).

Due to COVID-19, all audience members are to be masked. The play is not suitable for young children due to mature themes and some mild profanity.