Proof (play)

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This article is about the play by David Auburn. For other uses, see Proof (disambiguation).
Proof, A Play.jpg
Written by David Auburn
Characters Catherine
Date premiered 23 May 2000
Place premiered Manhattan Theatre Club
New York City, New York
Original language English
Genre Drama
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 won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.


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 that is 25 years old, who inherited much 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 dour woman. She left Robert and Catherine behind, distancing herself from the run down family home of her youth. She left the family to make a new life for herself in New York City.

Robert: A recently deceased mathematician praised for his groundbreaking 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.

Production history[edit]

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.

From March 13, 2013 to April 27, 2013, a production appeared at London's Menier Chocolate Factory. It featured Mariah Gale in the role of Catherine and Polly Findlay directed.[1]

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.

In September to October 2013, Proof was directed by Emily Mann at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ.

Film adaptation[edit]

Main article: Proof (2005 film)

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[edit]



  1. ^ Matthew Amer (29 January 2013). "Gale has Menier Proof". Official London Theatre. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]