Friday, October 16, 2009
In Which Trai Reviews 'Proof: A Play'
The Book: Proof: A Play
The Author: David Auburn
How I Found It: Knew vaguely of the movie, but was assigned a scene to perform in acting class as the character Catherine that made me cry when I acted it in front of the class.
The Review: To start off: I am not good with math. Numbers bug me, math escapes me, and this inability to do math makes me suck at science. The closest I will ever get to being a math or science geek is watching The Big Bang Theory every Monday.
I think that was what initially drove me away from the movie of the play-- all I knew was that the main character was a daughter of a famous mathematician and no siree Bob was I spending more time with math than I had to.
However, I'm glad I shied away from seeing the movie when I was fourteen or so-- I don't know if I would have liked it then, and that would have deprived me of the beautiful, beautiful experience of reading this play.
The play has only four characters and a very minimal set: the entirety of the action takes place on the back porch of an old house at varying times. The four characters are Robert, a brilliant but bipolar mathematician who passes away before the play begins; Catherine, his youngest daughter everyone believes may have inherited his disorder; Claire, her older sister who wants Catherine to come live with her just in case she is unstable; and Hal, a former student of Robert's who wishes to look through the 103 notebooks Robert left behind.
When the play starts, Catherine is shaken by what could be a dream or hallucination of her dead father, something the hallucination Robert warns could be a sign of bipolar disorder. Hal wakes her to tell her he's done looking through Robert's workspace, but that he believes there could be something important in the notebooks. Catherine accuses him of wishing to pass off her father's work as his own, but Hal vehemently denies the claims and even tries hitting on her. Things escalate until Catherine finds that Hal did take a notebook-- but the one in which Robert wrote about her during a lucid period. (Trust me, this is only the first scene in the play that made me cry.)
The play is so much more than the first scene, but I don't want to give anything away. I haven't read very many plays, but I think that this one has become my favorite-- even surpassing The Laramie Project, a beautiful work I still believe everyone should read. Laramie drew me to tears three times; Proof did at least five. The two flashback scenes in particular are absolutely heartbreaking. My mother felt worst for Catherine throughout the movie, but for me it was Robert, who wants desperately to believe he is lucid and working in the flashbacks, but instead learns the opposite.
This play had me at hello; from the moment I read the scene in acting class, I was dying to read the rest. I read it this afternoon in probably less than an hour or so; I know I'm going to read it many times after this. Don't let the math scare you; it's not as much a part of the play as you'd think. I agree with a reviewer who said that this play is for anybody who has ever been passionate about something-- for me, it's my writing, and I could perfectly understand the emotions of the characters. This is not a play about math; it is a play about human interactions, and it is a play about love.
I recommend this wholeheartedly to anyone who wants to read a gorgeous, perfectly done play (it even won the Pulitzer). And to anyone who needs a good cry.