Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
One of the most acclaimed plays of the 1999-2000 season, Proof is a work that explores the unknowability of love as much as it does the mysteries of science.
It focuses on Catherine, a young woman who has spent years caring for her father, Robert, a brilliant mathematician in his youth who was later unable to function without her help. His death has brought into her midst both her sister, Claire, who wants to take Catherine back to New York with her, and Hal, a former student of Catherine's father who hopes to find some hint of Robert's genius among his incoherent scribblings. The passion that Hal feels for math both moves and angers Catherine, who, in her exhaustion, is torn between missing her father and resenting the great sacrifices she made for him. For Catherine has inherited at least a part of her father's brilliance and perhaps some of his instability as well. As she and Hal become attracted to each other, they push at the edges of each other's knowledge, considering not only the unpredictability of genius but also the human instinct toward love and trust.
After the death of her mathematical genius father, Catherine, who gave up her own study of mathematics to tend to him, claims that she is the author of a mathematical proof found in the attic among his unpublished, mostly incoherent notebooks by Hal, one of his former students. But what "proof" does Catherine have that she, and not her father, is the author? Her older sister, home to attend the funeral, doubts her claim and, in fact, doubts Catherine's own sanity. Hal, who has professional ambitions of his own, isn't exactly disinterested and may not be trustworthy; his sleeping with Catherine has also complicated the issue. The elusiveness of genius in general and the difficulty of a mathematical proof in particular here become metaphors for the uncertainties of love, trust, and personal integrity. This wonderful play has already won the Kesselring Prize for Auburn, also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Proof's deft dialog, its careful structure, and the humanity of the central characters are themselves proof of a major new talent in the American theater. Strongly recommended for all drama collections. Robert W. Melton, Univ. of Kansas Libs., Lawrence Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.