Living Proof

The acclaimed Proof concentrates on the formulas of human relationships.

David Auburn's play, Proof, garnered ecstatic reviews in New York and then went on to a triumphant run in London -- though critics there seemed slightly more excited about the appearance of Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead than about the script itself (she "has the eyes of a lynx," suggested one). Proof has also won both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

The play is about Catherine, a young woman who nursed her brilliant mathematician father through five years of dementia. By the time a student of her father's arrives to look through his notebooks, she's withdrawn, laconic and depressed. In one of the notebooks, the student finds a revolutionary mathematical formula -- a proof as brilliant as the three that brought Catherine's father his renown. Is Catherine the author, as she asserts? Or is she delusional -- the inheritor not of her father's genius, but of his madness?

Proof has inevitably been compared to Michael Frayn's Copenhagen (which the Denver Center Theatre Company will stage next March) and Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. Copenhagen depicts a fraught meeting between scientific giants Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr in 1941, in which the two man discuss the feasibility of the atom bomb. Arcadiarevolves around a thirteen-year-old math prodigy, and it romps through an exploration of history, science, philosophy, art and literary theory. But science is far more integral to these two plays than it is to Proof, which focuses instead on human relationships -- in particular the complex attachment between Catherine and her father, and her growing feelings for the young student, Hal. Some critics cite this as a weakness, but for others -- including the usually irascible John Simon of New York magazine -- it's the play's great strength.

The touring company of Proof stars Chelsea Altman as Catherine and Robert Foxworth, known for his work in the television drama Falcon Crest, as her father.

Randy Weeks, executive director of Denver Center Attractions, saw Proofin New York. "It's a wonderful story," he says. "The ending's marvelous. I feel Denver deserves the opportunity to see it.

"And sometimes, it's that simple."

 
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