THEATER REVIEW: “Proof” @ Oldcastle Theatre Company [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Gail M. Burns
Photograph by Deborah Peterson
David Auburn’s Proof burst on the national consciousness nearly 20 years ago – winning Tonys and a Pulitzer and being made into a big budget, star-studded film – so the initial flurry of professional and amateur productions across the country has run its course, and the play is ripe for revisiting in the #metoo era.
A simple play about complex subjects, Proof centers on 25-year-old Catherine (Talley Gale) who has just lost her widowed father, Robert (Richard Howe), a brilliant mathematician at the University of Chicago, after years of mental illness during which she was his sole caregiver. Her only sibling, older sister Claire (Halley Cianfarini), has opted for a high-powered career in Manhattan, but of course Claire is headed home for the funeral. Also in the mix is Hal (Ethan Botwick), a young professor of mathematics at the University who was mentored by Catherine and Claire’s father, and who is going through the late professor’s effects to see if any important and undiscovered research survives him.
Claire and Hal begin a relationship, and she gives him a notebook containing an astonishing mathematical proof that she claims she wrote. But Claire doesn’t even hold an undergraduate degree, her studies having been interrupted by her father’s illness and her decision to care for him, and she also seems to have inherited some of his mental instability. Can she prove that the proof is her work and not a last burst of brilliance from her father?