By Chisa Hutchinson; Directed by Jade King Carroll
Produced by Audible in association with New York Theatre Workshop
Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 6.16.19
Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane
by Lexi Orphanos on 5.26.19
Brenda Pressley in Proof of Love. Photo by Joan Marcus.
BOTTOM LINE: In Proof of Love, a refined mother and wife puts her marriage to her comatose husband on the witness stand.
As her husband Maurice lies, unconscious, in a spacious private ICU room after a nearly fatal car crash, Constance (Brenda Pressley) collects his cellphone...and finds some text messages. The world of this proud and picture-perfect wife is blown wide open: Maurice has been sleeping with a woman, Lashonda, once a week for eight years. Caught at a crossroads, Constance must now decide the future of her relationship. She bears the burden of proof—proof of love.
When Constance puts her marriage on trial in this stream-of-consciousness play, she finds little to believe in at first. Understandably, Constance is full of anger, fueled by biting judgement toward both Maurice and Lashonda. What’s worse, Lashonda, with rhinestones on her nails and a big personality on Facebook, seems to be Constance’s complete antithesis. Constance is stoic and cool, and can’t help but mock everything about Lashonda’s world. As a gesture toward Black Elitism, playwright Chisa Hutchinson gives Constance several cringey comments, including her attraction to her husband based on his proper pronunciation of the work “asked,” and how adding “La” to the beginning of a name is like “dressing up trash.”
In a promo video, Hutchinson identifies potential preconceptions: the “temptation to be like ‘it’s a black play,’ which to an extent it is, and we’re going to find out how she’s oppressed. And I think it will surprise [audiences] to find out that nope, nope, nope, that is not the case. We’re just going to focus on her as a human, dealing with some human shit.” Indeed, Proof of Love is informed by Constance’s feelings toward her black community, but the bones of this story boil down to human connection.
Constance finds greater depth in the black community around her, despite her cold attempts to “other” women like Lashonda. Similar to other solo plays produced by Audible (Harry Clarke with Billy Crudup and Girls & Boys with Carey Mulligan), Proof of Love plays into the audio play medium with captivating storytelling shifts, focusing deeply on the chipping away at our protagonist in crisis while abandoning the need for spectacle or flashy theatrical devices. This, of course, is reliant on clean direction from Jade King Carroll and a nuanced performance by Brenda Pressley. Between her icy conviction and choked desires for a loving partnership, Pressley expertly portrays the hard exterior giving way to a vulnerable underbelly in Constance’s character. This balance is crucial to communicating Hutchinson’s story.
It is exciting yet unsurprising to learn that Hutchinson has already begun working on a film product with Stephanie Allain of Dear White People—the work presented here exemplifies art that is inevitably informed by race without creating a play that is about race. For theatre that can be electronically available for all to enjoy as an audio play, Proof of Love is certainly paving the way for accessible theatre—and connecting wider audiences to the communities around them.
(Proof of Love plays at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, through June 16, 2019. The running time is 75 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Tuesdays at 7; Wednesdays at 2 and 8; Thursdays at 7; Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 3. Tickets start at $65 and are available at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-982-2787. For more information visit proofoflovetheplay.com.)
Proof of Love is by Chisa Hutchinson. Directed by Jade King Carroll. Scenic Design by Alexis Distler. Costume Design by Jen Caprio. Lighting Design by Mary Louise Geiger. Sound Design by Justin Ellington. Production Stage Manager is Donald Fried.
Proof of Love stars Brenda Pressley.