by Rita Charleston
Catherine is a woman who spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable and mentally ill father, a famous mathematician. Following his death, she deals with her own volatile emotions, including the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire, the attentions of Hal, her father’s former student, and perhaps the most difficult problem of all — how much of her father’s madness she will inherit.
Such is the premise of “Proof,” written by David Auburn, directed by Sarah Mitteldorf and running weekends from Sept. 25 through Oct. 11 at Allens Lane, 601 W. Allens Lane in West Mt. Airy. “Proof” is unusual in that, unlike the original, it features an all-female cast. Catherine is played by a Colorado transplant and now 31-year-old local resident, Jess Brownell.
“I play one of the females in the four-character play, which is fine, but I think too often theater people stick to tradition a lot more than in other endeavors,” Brownell said. “So this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us. I’m having a wonderful time with the casting and the play in general.”
Others in the cast are Sharon Eyster as Claire, Sarah Heddins as Hal and Samantha Simpson as Robert. Brownell is a graduate of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a B.A. in Chemistry and a minor in Theater. Upon graduation, she took an analytical chemist’s with a pharmaceutical company in this area.
But when a struggling economy hit and Brownell was laid off, she decided to follow her true passion — theater. “Becoming an actress was something I dreamed about my whole life. I was told that all my life I was singing and dancing, and the first play I was in was at four years old. Theater was always in my blood.”
So when Brownell lost her job in 2011, she decided to devote herself to acting full-time. “Of course, acting doesn’t pay as well as my job as a chemist, but it’s much more satisfying in terms of giving to me emotionally. So in order to make ends meet, I have taken any number of jobs, including a server, bartender, nanny and more. But it’s all been well worth it so that I can follow my true passion.” Some of Brownell’s credits include “The Winter’s Tale” at Forge Theater, “The Fantasticks” at Centre Theater, the third annual “One Minute Play Festival” and more. This is her debut at Allens Lane.
“Every person has a story that should be told, and this is Catherine’s story,” the actress said. “It’s important for people to hear those stories. This one is about facing tough issues. Catherine is a very complex character and has been depressed for years, so it’s important for me to address hers and every person’s story to the best of my ability.”
Brownell’s future plans include moving to New Zealand to live and work. “I did a show there for three weeks and really liked it there, so I’ll be going back soon. But who knows what’ll happen? I won’t know until I get there.”
Tickets for “Proof” are $20 with reservations or $25 at the door. For tickets, call 215-248-0546.