Robert, Catherine’s father, cracked after writing groundbreaking proofs that affected several fields in mathematics and science.
Catherine, a young mathematician in her own right, worries that she has inherited her father’s mental illness along with his genius.
Hal, a young doctoral candidate once advised by Catherine’s father, commits himself to searching through Robert’s notebooks for moments of mathematical lucidity among lines and lines of babble.
Claire, Catherine’s controlling older sister, makes plans to fix a situation she chose to run from years ago.
David Auburn’s “Proof,” which is being staged at Geva Theatre until Nov. 17 under the direction of Mark Cuddy, is a beautiful story about these four characters’ explorations of gender roles, courage and faith.
In last Wednesday’s performance, Maria Dizzia portrayed Catherine as a mercuric, troubled woman who seemed aggressive and charmingly fragile.
Dizzia’s Catherine was natural and easy to watch from the moment the lights went up on her dyed-hair, no-frills self sprawled in a chair. Catherine’s emotions ranged from enraged to submissive and Dizzia used them to earn the audience’s sympathy at every turn.
In her verbal sparring with Claire, played by Courtney Peterson, Catherine won the favor of so many audience members that an elderly man near me shouted “Good!” when Claire finally left the house.
The conflict between the sisters in “Proof” stems not only from their personality differences but from the choices they have made ? Claire became an accountant and moved to New York, where she sent money to her younger sister Catherine. Catherine, stuck with what was arguably the more difficult job of caring for her father, dropped out of school.
Catherine’s feelings of resentment and annoyance toward her older sister show in her screamed insults, forced smiles and frustrated body language. Claire’s guilt is visible through her facade of competence.
Claire is often downright obnoxious in her attempts to “fix” her sister’s unhappy situation ? like when she asks Hal, “Why did you sleep with her?” superciliously remarking that he took advantage of Catherine.
Peter Smith, who plays Hal, portrays him as a gangly, fun and hard-working student. Hal’s band of math geeks, in which he is the drummer, play their hit song about prime numbers at a party during a more lighthearted moment of the play.
“Proof” received both the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2001 Tony Award for Best Play. On Wednesday night, the actors made David Auburn’s elegant and well-structured script so easy to digest that the end, after two hours and fifteen minutes, came too soon.
“Proof” is a must-see for the mathematically minded, bibliophiles and those who have spent the time and mental energy exploring both worlds.
While this play has universal themes, it is acted by and about three young people.
The fact that the audience on Wednesday night was almost entirely older ? I was one of only several people under 25 ? means that an incredible play may be lost to those who could most appreciate its meaning.
Student discounts are available for tickets. For information, contact Geva’s box office.
Weiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.