Saturday, August 10, 2013

Proof: More than math

by Jenni Morin

David Auburn’s Proof, now showing at The Sterling Houston Theatre at Jump-Start produced by The Classic Theatre, has won all four major drama awards, which initially drew Director Allan S. Ross to the script. Thirteen years after its debut on Broadway in 2000, Proof continues to tackle sexism and ageism and the debate between genius and insanity, all the while making a case for reigniting a passion for the art of mathematics.

With the recent passing of her mathematical genius father, Catherine tries to cope with the mind she inherited from him. As her sister, Claire, went to live in New York, Catherine quit school to take care of the mentally unstable Robert for the last few years of his life. Hal, a former doctoral student of Robert’s, scours years of his incoherent ramblings in an attempt to recover an added legacy to his genius. Finding nothing, Catherine presents him with a field-altering proof, but she must prove its authorship.

Past his mathematical prime at 28, Hal not only has resigned himself to never achieving the greatness of his mentor, he’s also out ruled Catherine at the age of 25. Her age, compounded with her lack of formalized education and her gender makes it nearly impossible to accept that she could be the author of the proof. This clash of sexism and ageism provides the background for the climax of the play. Catherine’s own uncertainty about her abilities and mental state make the situation even more puzzling.

Hunter Wulff as Hal is able to capitalize on the current popularity of geeks and nerds and gives a convincing and natural performance. As Catherine, Katie Murphy seems distanced, perhaps purposefully, from the rest of the cast. John O’Neill gives an entertaining performance as Robert the father and Christi Eanes rounds out the disjointed family as Claire.
The script leaves out details like the Robert’s exact diagnosis and the name of Hal’s band. These and other missing idiosyncratic details leave room for an abundance of subtext, which the cast seems to lack in their portrayals.

Lighting Designer Felice Garcia, along with Ross as scenic designer, made fantastic contributions to the technical side of the production. The lighting was subtle and intuitive while the set was detailed, providing a great textural piece to complete the cast. Not to be overlooked, Rick Malone’s sound design is a welcome the extra layer.

Proof is a great piece of dramatic literature. It challenges the perception of ability based on gender, age or mental instability, possibly redefining the look of genius. It perpetuates the conversation about the future of math and science in the country’s education system. Proof is quickly becoming a theatre staple and Classic’s production gives it the consideration it deserves.

Proof runs at The Sterling Houston Theatre at Jump-Start through August 25, 2013 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays . For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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