|Written by||David Auburn|
|Date premiered||23 May 2000|
|Place premiered||Manhattan Theatre Club
New York City, New York
|Setting||University of Chicago Chicago, Illinois|
Proof is a 2000 play by the American playwright David Auburn. Premiered Off-Broadway in May 2000, it transferred to Broadway theater in October 2000. The production closed in January 2003 after a total of 917 performances.
The play concerns Catherine, the daughter of Robert, a recently deceased mathematical genius in his fifties and professor at the University of Chicago, and her struggle with mathematical genius and mental illness. Catherine had cared for her father through a lengthy mental illness. Upon Robert's death, his ex-graduate student Hal discovers a paradigm-shifting proof about prime numbers in Robert's office. The title refers both to that proof and to the play's central question: Can Catherine prove the proof's authorship? Along with demonstrating the proof's authenticity, the daughter also finds herself in a relationship with 28-year-old Hal. Throughout, the play explores Catherine's fear of following in her father's footsteps, both mathematically and mentally and her desperate attempts to stay in control.
Catherine: A young woman who inherited at least some of her father's mathematical genius, and, she fears, his "instability" as well; she gave up her life and schooling to take care of her father until his recent death.
Claire: Catherine's older sister, a no nonsense, take charge kind of gal. She left Robert and Catherine behind, distancing herself from the run down family home of her youth. She escaped the edge of the UChicago campus to make a new life for herself in New York City.
Robert: A recently deceased mathematician who did brilliant, breakthrough work in his youth, but whose later years were plagued by delusional mental illness; he is seen in Catherine's imagination and in flashbacks.
Harold (Hal) Dobbs: One of Robert's last Ph.D. students during the one year his idol and mentor's illness went into remission, at least enabling Robert to teach, if not continue his own creative mathematical work.
Originally produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club on 23 May 2000, it transferred to Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre on 24 October 2000. Directed by Daniel J. Sullivan, the production starred Mary-Louise Parker as Catherine, Larry Bryggman as Robert, Ben Shenkman as Hal, and Johanna Day as Claire. Later during the Broadway run, Jennifer Jason Leigh (September 13, 2001 to June 30, 2002) and Anne Heche took over the lead role. Josh Hamilton and Neil Patrick Harris subsequently played the role of Hal. Mary-Louise Parker won the Tony Award for her performance.
In April and May 2013, a new production by the Whitmore Eclectic Theater Group opened in Los Angeles at the Hayworth Theatre for a limited run. James Whitmore Jr., son of the award winning iconic actor James Whitmore, stars and Aliah Whitmore, his daughter directed. A production in May 2013 opened at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A 2005 film adaptation was directed by John Madden starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Catherine, along with Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Adapted by Rebecca Miller, the film version added more characters (in minor supporting roles), whereas the play has only four.
Awards and nominations
- 2001 Drama Desk Award for Best New Play
- 2001 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play
- 2001 New York Drama Critics' Circle Best Play
- 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
- 2001 Tony Award for Best Play
- Auburn, David (2001). Proof: A Play. London: Faber and Faber. p. 96. ISBN 0-571-19997-6.
- University of Chicago interview with David Auburn about the genesis of Proof
- Proof at the Internet Broadway Database
- Proof at the Internet off-Broadway Database
- Proof at the Internet Movie Database