As a critic I see many plays, though the number has diminished drastically since I began reading plays prior to their opening. Most I can hardly get through without an ample supply of chocolates and diet Dr. Pepper, and the reading often serves in lieu of attending a performance. So imagine my surprise when I read Proof by David Auburn, opening a limited run March 5-10, 2002 at the Majestic Theater as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals' Broadway Contemporary Series.

Proof won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for Best Play in 2001 and is unarguably the most deftly-crafted play I have encountered since Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. In fact Auburn's style is similar to Stoppard's. When I mentioned this to Auburn in a recent phone interview from his home in New York, he expressed delight, as he is a big fan of Stoppard's work.

Proof relates the story of 25-year-old Catherine who is following in the footsteps of her brilliant but mentally unstable father, a mathematics professor at the university. Catherine has been living with and caring for her father, Robert, in his mental decline and fears she may have inherited his proclivity toward mental illness.

Enter estranged older sister, Claire, on the eve of Robert's funeral. She has decided unilaterally that Catherine is unable to be alone and must live with Claire and her husband. Also factored into the equation is Hal, a graduate student of Robert's, seeking to unlock the mystery of a secret mathematical proof he believes is located in one of the many notebooks left by Robert.

Romance and intrigue follow and are integrated into the plot like a finely woven tapestry. Auburn, only 32 years old, first had the idea, actually two ideas, for Proof in 1998. He said he "wanted to write about two sisters fighting over an object found after their father's death" and also about someone "worrying about inheriting a mental illness. Then those two ideas just came together." He completed the play in 1999, and it received its premiere in May, 2000 at the Manhattan Theatre Club Off Broadway.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Auburn is currently working on a screenplay for Miramax about art forgery during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. The touring production of Proof stars veteran actor Robert Foxworth, best known to TV viewers as Chase Gioberti, the wine maker on "Falcon Crest." He also appeared a season ago on Broadway in Judgment at Nuremberg. Chelsea Altman plays Catherine and appeared recently on Broaday in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and A View From The Bridge. Proof is directed by Daniel Sullivan, who won a 2001 Tony for directing the drama on Broadway. He served as Artistic Director of Seattle Repertory Theater from 1981 to 1997.



Key Subjects: 
Proof, David Auburn, Daniel Sullivan, mathematics
Rita Faye Smith
February 2002