Nothing is “true” but believing makes it so. In the end what validates “fact” is our willingness to accept it as such. For all the research, the proving by disproving, that goes into them, scientific “laws” owe their existence to trust; they depend on faith. Our trust, our faith. So do relationships between humans, particularly in the absence of “proof.”
This bottom-line message is hardly original, and by itself would not have been sufficient to win the Pulitzer Prize for American playwright David Auburn. The success that Proof has enjoyed since it was first performed in October of 2000 doesn’t have as much to do with the things that auburn has to say as it does with the way in which he says them. The subject matter is universal, the story interesting, the characters fascinating. Perhaps most important, the piece is so finely crafted with respect to structure that it captures the attention immediately and does not relinquish its firm grip until the well-deserved standing ovation that draws the evening, or afternoon, to a close.
Gerald Lenton-Young, whom artistic director Ruth Smillie plucked from the University of Regina’s theatre department for the purpose of staging the Globe production, cast it marvelously…
John Dolan, Jacklyn Francis, Jeff Lawson and especially Tara Hughes give outstanding performances. Hughes plays the character that holds all of this together. She is Catherine, a young woman who makes considerable personal sacrifices in order to care for her father Robert (Dolan), a highly regarded mathematician who is brilliant but also mentally ill.
In the aftermath, so to speak, of Robert’s death, we are shown, in flashbacks, Catherine’s loving relationship with her father. What makes their conversations all the more riveting as good-natured, back-and-forth chit chat is the way that Auburn uses words to raise, debate and settle points in a way numbers are used to raise, debate and settle scientific arguments.
This friendly jousting between father and daughter is positively charming; it endears the characters to one another and to the audience as well. The warmth of the father-daughter relationship is contrasted by the edgy exchanges between Catherine and her older sister Claire (Francis). Claire has returned for Robert’s funeral, and in spite of her efforts, well-intended and sincere, her attempts to get closer to her sibling are frustrated by Catherine’s bitterness and cynicism; an understandable resentment rooted in the fact that while Catherine has been caring for their ailing father in Chicago, Claire has been pursuing a career in New York.
Interestingly, elements of both of these relationships, father-daughter, sister-sister, are present in Catherine’s relationship with Hal (Lawson)< a young graduate student who was mentored by Robert and who is now going through the late professor’s notebooks in search of information he might publish as a thesis. Hal is infatuated with Catherine, and makes overtures he hopes will bring her out of her protective shell. His advances are at first rejected, then reciprocated. They fall in love and this leads to a potentially earth-shattering revelation which, although it does not come as a complete surprise, does create the dramatic tension that carries the play to its conclusion and to a resolution – or at least, as close to a resolution as is possible, given the circumstances.
Though it is a “serious” work, Proof is rife with humour. Some of this comes from Auburn’s determination to have fun with the stereotypes that “define” mathematicians. He gives them equal time as party animals and as nerds. A word about the design: David Boechler’s set is a gazebo that fits nicely with the Globe’s Theatre-in-the-round space, and his costumes include one particular outfit for Claire that is a most appropriate symbol for the middle-class, designer-coffee lifestyle she leads; watch for it late in the play.
What a cast! Tara Hughes was fantastic as Catherine.
She took me away unlike any other actor I’ve seen at the Globe.
Excellent show. What an amazing play, and beautifully
done. Congrats to all.
Great show. Great performers. Very touching &
Wonderful-wonderful set, actor, actresses, staging.
I think this is the best acting and directing
that I’ve ever seen at the Globe! Well done! A real wonder!