Well, this show may be many things, but Proof of Love it surely is not. To be completely honest, I cannot tell where the problem rests - there is plenty of problem to spread around.
This is the story of a woman who is sitting vigil at her husband's bedside. He has been in a terrible auto accident and the prognosis is not good. Constance Daley (Brenda Pressley) - her name made me wonder if it were an audible play on words - has been at her husband's side for 5 days and the novelty is beginning to wear thin. She is about to unload on the man in the bed.
This particular hospital room is larger than most 1 bedroom apartments in New York. It runs about 35' wide by 20' deep. Hello? On what planet is this possible? In order for Ms. Pressley to emote, she has to cover some major ground from the bed to the sofa (a sofa in a hospital room...) to the easy chairs, to her iPhones, and back to the bed again. It is a marathon. To add insult to injury the hospital bed in question is located on the stage right wall, with the long side of the bed flush with the wall. This is a position that would prohibit any medical personnel from attending to the patient properly.
In other words - this particular private hospital room is unlike any hospital room you have ever seen. So reality gets tossed out the window from the get go.
I mentioned above that Ms. Pressley needed to cover major space in order to emote - and that is not entirely true because she doesn't do much of that. She plays pretty much one note - a sort of maudlin condition - for most of the 70 minutes she is with us. So consistent is her tone that this must have been the wish of the author, Chisa Hutchinson, as well as the director, Jade King Carroll. Or perhaps all three women came up with this approach. Who knows? Regarding the text itself, while we are asked to believe that Constance is talking to her unconscious husband, she spends most of her time standing stage center talking in our direction. She does not make eye contact, so it is difficult to ascertain her intention. The result is that the pace and tone are like the blips on a hospital monitor. Repetitive and monotonous.
As the story meanders along we discover that Constance has become something of a sleuth. She painstakingly reviews the various steps she has taken to uncover the truth behind her husband's accident. Where was her husband going? Why was he at that intersection? This is meant to be a life changing afternoon for Constance. This accident brings with it a mystery begging to be solved. But it will require upending what she thought of as her well-ordered life. And Constance is all in. She picks at the dangling threads of this incident the way she does everything - thoroughly and with precision. As the walls come tumbling down we want very much to be on this precarious ride with Constance. But the conspiring production elements of script, set and tone are too great to overcome.
While watching this I was reminded of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, a series of monologues that lived part of its life as audio only. The tales are intimate. Some are simple and others heroic in scope. This production, staged at the Minetta Lane Theatre, is presented by Audible, Inc. which specializes in Spoken Word material. Perhaps the origin of this piece was intended as an audio play. It might stand a better chance as an audio piece without the distractions of an outsized set and an undersized delivery.
Even the lighting managed to disappoint in the end. The final cue of a blackout was so abrupt that we thought a fuse had blown. Literally speaking.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)
"The point of Proof of Love is to turn the tables. Now that Maurice, who grew up poor, has been caught consorting with the likes of Lashonda, it’s Constance who must seriously explore what condescension, racial or otherwise, has done to her — and to the ghost of her 32-year marriage. That’s a fascinating and fresh theme, worth even the contrivance it takes to establish. And it does provide Ms. Pressley — who recently appeared in Ms. Hutchison’s play Surely Goodness and Mercy — a rich opportunity to explore a complex, loquacious, if emotionally stifled, character. Originally known for her bravura singing, she makes the most of it."
Jesse Green for New York Times