Proof: A Play

Overview


Proof is the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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 ...

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Overview


Proof is the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Proof . . . a play about scientists whose science matter less than their humanity . . . All four [characters]—whether loving, hating, encouraging or impeding one another--are intensely alive, complex, funny human." —John Simon, New York

"An exhilarating and assured new play . . . accessible and compelling as a detective story." —Bruce Weber, The New York Times

"Auburn has taken on some biggies here; what the link may be between genius and mental instability, why it is that lives get stuck, and how elusive the truth can be . . . [Proof's] level of accomplishment and the realness of its characters show that Auburn has both depth and a voice." —The New Yorker

From the Publisher

"Proof . . . a play about scientists whose science matter less than their humanity . . . All four [characters]—whether loving, hating, encouraging or impeding one another—are intensely alive, complex, funny human." —John Simon, New York

"An exhilarating and assured new play . . . accessible and compelling as a detective story." —Bruce Weber, The New York Times

"Auburn has taken on some biggies here; what the link may be between genius and mental instability, why it is that lives get stuck, and how elusive the truth can be . . . [Proof's] level of accomplishment and the realness of its characters show that Auburn has both depth and a voice." —The New Yorker

Library Journal
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.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Twenty-five-year-old Catherine, who sacrificed college to care for her mentally ill father (once a brilliant, much-admired mathematician), is left in a kind of limbo after his death. Socially awkward and a bit of a shut-in, she is gruff with Hal, a former student who shows up even before the funeral wanting to root through the countless notebooks her father kept in the years of his decline, hoping to find mathematical gold. On the heels of his arrival comes Claire, Catherine's cosmopolitan, blandly successful, and pushy sister, with plans to sell their father's house and take Catherine (whom she's convinced has inherited a touch of their father's illness) with her back to New York. Catherine does not want to leave, and things become more complicated as she and Hal tentatively begin to develop a relationship. She gives him the key to a drawer in her father's desk, where the "gold" waits-in the form of a notebook filled with the most original and astonishing mathematical proof Hal has seen in years. Thrilled, he wants to take immediate steps to have the proof published in her father's name, until Catherine shocks both him and Claire by declaring that she is its author. Hal's harsh incredulity pushes Catherine into an indifferent funk, sorely disappointed by the insult of having to prove her honesty to a friend she had trusted. There is much to appeal to YAs in this Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play, which crackles with subtle wit while tackling large questions.-Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780571199976
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 3/5/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 149,184
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 8.17 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

David Auburn's plays include Skyscraper (Greenwich House Theater) and Fifth Planet (New York Stage and Film). In 2001 he received the Kesselring Prize and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A past-paced, gripping play about young woman struggling with the recent loss of her father, the arrival of her uptight sister, and her own self-doubt over whether or not she's sane.

    Proof, a play by David Auburn is about a young woman named Catherine, who finds her sanity questionable after caring for, and losing her father to mental illness and heart failure. After spending the last few years frustrated and concerned over her father's wellbeing and internalizing those feelings, she is suddenly thrust into society and forced to look at herself. We are invited into her world to feel as she does, vulnerable, fragile and completely unsure of herself. If the storyline sounds familiar to you, you might be remembering the movie which came out in 2005 and starred Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anthony Hopkins. As far as adaptations go, the movie was actually pretty good. I read the play for my Contemporary Lit class and I loved it. It's filled with conflict and doubt and then there are the conversations that revolve around mathematics (might as well be a different language to me) but they were necessary and powerful in conveying the absolute brilliance of both father and daughter. The main question here is whether or not Catherine has inherited her father's mental illness as well. Auburn does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing. It's a quick read, only 96pp but as soon as I finished it I went right back and read it again. It's been a long time since I've read a play but it was refreshing and broke up my reading rut. Reading it reminded me of all the drama classes I took in college. So much is left up to your interpretation and I sort of like being challenged that way.

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  • Posted October 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    What a surprisingly intellectually stimulating play

    I picked up "Proof" on the recommendation of a friend knowing next to nothing about the plot. I was completely floored. This play is a page-turner that will have you really thinking about what it means to believe in something (not in a religious way) versus having "proof," because so often in life things are not layed out for us clearly in black and white. This play is absolutely perfect for stimulating discussion. I definitely recommend it for book clubs and/or discussion groups of any kind. And I know sometimes people don't like to read plays, they'd prefer to see them acted out, and there is definitely merit to that, but believe me, "Proof" is the kind of play that reads like a book. You will not feel like you are missing much by reading the dialogue as opposed to seeing it acted out.<BR/><BR/>(Sidenote: A movie version of "Proof" came out with Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins a couple of years ago. Do NOT see the movie. It pales in comparison. If you must, make sure you read the play first. You will not regret it.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2004

    The book Proof

    This was SUCH a good book. I loved it. Catherine is such a spunky character and everyone can relate to her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2002

    Great To Read, Great To See

    The story of Proof somehow jumped at me like no other play had before. I have seen the play twice. I didn't see it in New York, but I saw the first regional production of the play at the Alliance Theatre. This produciton starred Susan Pourfar as Catherine. Susan Pourfar breathed so much life into this role that now when I read it the show takes on new meaning. The story is new and REAL. Proof tells the story of the life of Catherine and the people most near her. Buy this book you won't regret it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2001

    The Play Speaks for Itself

    I really enjoyed this play; I would universally recommend it. Most plays, when you read them, have weak points, or rough edges, that snap you out of the reading trance, the illusion of reality. This play was smooth, smooth but dangerous in the real emotions boiling out. It seemed very believable, the charachters were realistic and well-presented. I borrowed this play from a friend and am about to buy my own copy, and copies for my friends as well. Very good.

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