October 29, 2001
Going Out: Rep's 'Proof' makes for riveting drama
by Deborah Stone
Arts Critic/ Reviewer
The Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Proof," by David Auburn, is currently on stage at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
This must-see production, directed by former Seattle Rep artistic director Daniel Sullivan, is both a romantic comedy and a well-constructed mystery that focuses on the nature of creativity and human relationships.
It delves into the source of an important mathematical proof while exploring the mystery of genius and the damage it can cause to those who possess it, desire it or are in close proximity to it.
At the heart of the story is 25-year-old Catherine (Chelsea Altman), a mathematically gifted Chicago woman who has put her own education and ambitions aside to care for her mentally ill renowned mathematician father Robert (Robert Foxworth) for the past several years. She must now get on with her own life, but she is at a loss as to how to proceed and finds herself languishing in an inactive funk.
Enter her pushy older sister Claire (Tasha Lawrence), who wants to take Catherine back with her to New York in a gallant attempt to make up for lost time and in order to assuage her own guilt at not being present for the years of Robert's instability and decline.
The final element in this equation is a young math prof, Hal (Stephen Kunken), a former student of Robert's, who is both fascinated with Robert's old math notebooks and very attracted to Catherine.
When a possible groundbreaking mathematical proof is discovered in Robert's desk, sparks fly, threatening the relationships among this triad and putting into question Catherine's sanity.
Auburn's play is a moving family drama, full of surprises and razor-edged wit. It is performed by a talented cast who makes their characters come alive with raw emotion, vulnerability and offbeat humor. At the center of it all is Altman's hip, tough-talking, yet fragile Catherine.
Altman plays her role with just the right amount of youthful angst and edginess, insecure in her future and in her faith in herself. Foxworth gives authenticity to Robert's manic depression, artfully conveying the myriad of emotions and states of this illness.
Kunken, who created the role of Hal on Broadway, is appropriately nerdy and epitomizes the mathematical geek to a tee.
He is funny, yet very appealing because he allows his character's insecurity to peek through at various times.
Lawrence, as yuppie Claire, makes the most of a thankless role. She blows in with a sense of duty and tries to show her concern, but this is definitely a mask for a deeper need to absolve her own guilt and deal with unresolved familial issues. As she attempts to do the "right" thing, her own vulnerabilities rear their ugly head.
"Proof" is a masterfully crafted play that makes for a riveting and stunning drama. The show runs through Nov. 10. For ticket information, call (206) 443-2222.