Please be aware, there is a minor SPOILER in this post regarding Proof. If that bothers you, please come back after you’ve seen the play!
Proof is one of those plays that can have a thousand different loglines. Is it about the relationship between a father and a daughter? The line between madness and genius? The competitive nature of sisterhood? The desire to succeed and fear of failure? The passage of time and lost chances?
It all depends upon which formula you plug in.
When I first saw Proof some seventeen years ago, it was all about the madness/genius angle for me. After spending my 30s taking care of my critically ill mother, it is about the delicate balance of taking care of someone else without losing yourself.
The moment that stands the strongest in my memory from Good Company Players’ production is a moment I repeated with my mother many times, and always with a little more drama each time.
Fighting against a relapse into mental instability, Robert (a well-calibrated Gordon Moore) writes his mathematical ideas furiously into a notebook. Finding him alone in the Chicago cold and without a jacket, his daughter, math prodigy Catherine (Bailey Johnson, in the best work I’ve seen from her thus far), approaches him and bids him come inside.
In an effort to grasp onto the last bit of hope that he’s not as sick as he suspects he is, Robert thrusts the notebook into Catherine’s hands and demands he read the formulas out to him.
After a moment’s calculation, Catherine does. The notebook is full of gibberish.
Anyone who has had to view their parents’ decline and confront them with the truth of it knows that moment. It’s the moment you have to take away their drivers’ license, keep them from using the stove alone, discuss putting them into assisted living. . . or the moment you realize you have to make a major sacrifice and take care of them yourself.
And it is utterly heartbreaking.
Directed by Denise Graziani, this moment in Proof soars.
If you’re wondering if a play like Proof is too much of a downer or too intellectual for your tastes, don’t. It is one of the most accessible plays out there for a general audience. It is thoughtful, contains familial humor and poignant drama. If you’re into television like “This is Us” or “Brothers and Sisters”, you should take a chance on Proof.
Proof runs June 21 – August 12, 2018 at Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theater.