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Father-daughter team sparks White Rock play

Natalie and Dave Peters take key roles in ‘Proof’

Call it serendipitous.

When director Lori Tych was casting for the roles of father, Robert, and daughter, Catherine, in David Auburn’s play Proof, she wasn’t expecting a real-life father and daughter to audition.

But that’s exactly what she got in Peninsula residents Dave and Natalie Peters.

Not that that cinched the parts for the actors – Tych was almost literally overwhelmed by a horde of players registering to try out for roles in the production, which had been causing a buzz ever since it was announced as part of the 2023-24 White Rock Players Club season last year.

“It was a huge turnout – probably one of the largest in many years,” she said.

“There were over 50 people for each of the four roles, which was very challenging, because there were a lot of very talented actors who were reading. It could have gone a number of ways – it wasn’t clear cut that I was going to cast the two of them together.”

But Tych said, it was impossible to ignore the natural connection of the pair when they read together.

“Chemistry is never a done-deal in theatre, but with them, the father-daughter chemistry – one of the key aspects of creating the characters – was already there. It became one of the defining reasons for my choice.”

The club’s production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama opens April 18 at the Ocean PARC Playhouse (1532 Johnston Rd.) for a three-week run, closing May 5.

READ ALSO: White Rock show challenges still prevalent taboos

In Proof’s opening conversation, on the porch of the family home in a suburb of Chicago, 20-something under-achiever Catherine is being gently chided by her father, Robert, a quirky, genius-level mathematician whose early brilliance has been undermined by mental illness, which ultimately terminated his teaching at the university.

It soon becomes clear that while she may have inherited his mathematical genius, one of the fears holding her back in life is that she may also have acquired the flip-side of that gift – his instability and susceptibility to delusion.

He assures her that a good sign of her own mental health is that she still has the ability to question it.

On the other hand there is a bad sign, he points out – their conversation is, after all, taking place a week after his death due to a heart attack.

Their continuing dialogue throughout the show (both in her mind, and in remembered incidents from four years earlier, when Robert had briefly resumed teaching after his illness went into remission) serves as barometer for Catherine’s own condition – how she is dealing with life and the loss of her father.

In addition to the issues that Robert’s passing have brought to the fore, Catherine must also contend with two other characters who are having a profound effect on her life.

One is Robert’s former student Hal (Santiago Henao) who is going through his late mentor’s notes – he says – to find mathematical work that can be published in his memory.

Catherine, however, suspects he’s looking for work that he can claim as his own to boost his teaching prospects.

The other is Catherine’s sister, Claire (Aurora Chan), who is concerned enough about Catherine’s mental health to want her to receive professional help, but is also intent on selling their father’s house – an idea that Catherine rejects vehemently.

“There is a through-line of mental illness in this but I’m not leaning into that so much as the idea of what we inherit from our parents, the good and the bad,” Tych said.

“I’m also leaning into the nature of love and trust and how you manage that.

“Even with all the serious themes, it’s also a very witty play, and there are more than a few funny moments,” she added.

“It’s so beautifully-written – the playwright is so incredibly skilled. There’s nothing wasted.

“The punctuation is right, it builds the drama and expresses what is needed in the moment for the characters.”

As Catherine, Natalie will be remembered by White Rock and South Surrey audiences from her lead role in Peninsula Productions’ The Stranger (directed by this writer) in 2022, and for her hilarious supporting role in White Rock Players Club’s Best Divorce Ever (directed by Julianne Christie) in 2023.

This writer also remembers the endearingly zany touch Dave Peters brought to the character of the famed hockey goalie in White Rock Players Club’s Jacques Plante and the Parkdale Knitting League in 1997.

“He gets to bring a bit of that into this,” Tych said, adding that Dave’s warmth and spontaneity contribute to a multi-faceted portrayal of Robert.

“They do have a wonderful chemistry. There are times when they are exploring the more playful aspects of Robert and Catherine’s relationship when I’m just sitting back in the theatre laughing.”

She describes Natalie, who she first worked with and got to know as a fellow player during The Stranger as a “very kinesthetic actor.”

“Natalie has a great ability to tap into a deep emotional well. She’s a marvellous actor – there’s a lot of honesty she brings to her roles.”

Natalie said she considers being able to work on Proof – particularly with her own father – as an “awesome opportunity”.

Proof first came into my hands when I was 19 or 20 and in my first year in college – I did a monologue from the play, and did a dive into the character of Catherine.

”I told my dad about it and that I thought he’d be really great in the role, but then he heard the character was dead, and there was this element of mental illness and he thought, ‘I don’t want to do that’ – it would be really depressing.”

Natalie added she was glad Dave relented when the opportunity arose for them to read for the current production.

“There is a lot of sadness in the story – that Catherine gave up her life to care for her father and threw away the chance of becoming a mathematician, and that Robert was losing his mind,” she acknowledged.

“But my dad is so full of joy, and so light, and so easy to be around, that he brings something else to Robert, something I’d call both unusual and contagious.

“He has a huge, humongous heart and he’s very spontaneous, so he brings that newness to everything – but he’s also very thoughtful at the same time.”

Natalie said she is also enjoying working with Henao, a Vancouver-based actor mainly experienced in film, and Chan, whose capability and versatility Tych discovered when she directed her in The Vagina Monologues in 2022 for Peninsula Productions.

“Santiago is very serious as Hal – he has this ‘a-dork-able’ energy that comes with the character, but he’s very natural and playful, and brings this quality of innocence to him that I feel really makes the part work, and will make it work for audiences.

“And Aurora is amazing and very sweet to work with – I feel that sisterly love on stage.

“Catherine and Claire are on opposite sides on a lot of things, but it’s not just bickering between them,” Natalie added.

“They’re fighting so hard to love each other, but there are so many obstacles between them, and most of them are misunderstandings, or things that happened in the past and were never apologized for.

“The play is very real in that way.”

Performances take place Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are $28 (adults) or $24 for seniors (60 plus) and youth (under 18).

For tickets, visit or call the box-office (604-536-7535) between 1 and 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, or visit whiterockp

Alex Browne

About the Author: Alex Browne

Alex Browne is a longtime reporter for the Peace Arch News, with particular expertise in arts and entertainment reporting and theatre and music reviews.
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